- Mike Reiss, ESPN New England Patriots reporter
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Welcome to the fifth-annual ESPNBoston.com mock draft!
"Mr. Scratch", "PatsFanTRichter", and "Clark12to81", three regulars in the comments section who add terrific insight to this blog, joined me in doing the selecting. The picks -- along with reader commentary -- were originally posted here. I've cut-and-paste them into the blog below.
One new feature we added this year was trades. What follows are the draft-day deals:
Falcons trade to Texans: 2014 first-rounder (No. 6), 2014 second-rounder (No. 37), 2014 fourth-rounder (No. 103) and 2015 second-rounder.
Texans trade to Falcons: 2014 first-rounder (No. 1).
Jets trade to Titans: 2014 first-round pick (18th overall), a 2014 third-rounder (80th) and 2014 sixth-rounder (195th)
Titans trade to Jets: 2014 first-rounder (11th overall)
49ers trade to Ravens: 2014 first-rounder (30th overall), 2014 third-rounder (77th overall) and 2014 fourth-rounder (129th overall)
Ravens trade to 49ers: 2014 first-rounder (17th overall)
Eagles trade to Broncos: 2014 first-round pick (22nd overall) and 2014 fourth-round pick (122nd overall)
Broncos trade to Eagles: 2014 first-round pick (31), 2014 third-round pick (95) and 2014 sixth-round pick (171)
***And here is how the first-round mock draft unfolded:
1. Atlanta Falcons (Mr. Scratch, via trade) -- Jadeveon Clowney (DE) South Carolina -- The Falcons want Clowney and Clowney wants Atlanta. GM Thomas Dimitroff has a history of aggressive moves in the draft and otherwise. Atlanta also faces potentially being painted in a corner should Clowney, Mack, Watkins and both offensive tackles be off the board in the first 5. They aggressively move to get their guy. Hey, if I'm putting someone who's shut down workouts on a "force plate," I'm doing whatever I can to get him.
2. St. Louis Rams (Mr. Scratch) -- Sammy Watkins (WR) Clemson -- The Rams have actively been seeking a top offensive weapon to supplement the passing game and QB Sam Bradford in recent years. What they've ended up with is a lot of depth but no true marquee talent. In a deep receiving class, they find themselves staring at the top wide receiver on the board with the first of their (2) first rounders.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (PatsFanTRichter) -- Khalil Mack (OLB) Buffalo -- Gus Bradley is a coach with a serious defensive pedigree, and David Caldwell, the Jacksonville general manager, is a Buffalo native. Jacksonville fans might be screaming for Blake Bortles at this point, but as much as the Jaguars may want a franchise quarterback, they also want a fast, aggressive defender. Bradley coached linebackers in Tampa Bay and coordinated the Seahawks' defenses of recent vintage, and that, along with several highly-regarded prospects beyond the first round at the quarterback position and their (misplaced?) faith in Chad Henne is enough to let them pull the trigger on Mack instead. Mack's small-school pedigree won't dissuade them from taking the linebacker, who is a superior athlete with a high degree of competitiveness and natural rush skills, and would slide into Bradley's scheme with ease.
4. Cleveland Browns (Clark12to87) -- WR Mike Evans (WR) Texas A&M -- The buzz around Cleveland has the Browns falling in love with Derek Carr as their QB of the future. They could very well trade down here and still achieve that goal or trade up from No. 26 if they feel there may be other suitors that covet Carr. Either way, the Browns have the chips to move around where they'd like in this draft. Mike Evans would give the Browns a top-notch 1-2 punch at wide receiver as they have nothing behind standout Josh Gordon. This could also be the EJ Manuel of the 2014 draft if the Browns draft Carr and shock us all.
5. Oakland Raiders (Mike Reiss) -- Greg Robinson (OT), Auburn -- After starting left tackle Jared Veldheer departed in free agency, and the free-agent signing of Rodger Saffold fell through because of a failed physical, the Raiders get their blindside protector of the future. Now general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen just have to hope their Raiders future extends beyond 2014.
6. Houston Texans (Mike Reiss, via trade) -- Blake Bortles (QB) Central Florida -- After getting a haul to trade down from the top pick, there is more comfort for the Texans in investing at the quarterback spot, and allowing Bortles to learn behind the scenes for a year to avoid a David Carr type situation. The Texans' new QB coach, George Godsey, previously coached Bortles at UCF.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (PatsFanTRichter) -- Johnny Manziel (QB), Texas A&M -- Johnny Football! Lovie Smith might like Josh McCown as his starter, and Mike Glennon might be on the roster, but there's been a lot of smoke around the Buccaneers' interest in Manziel, and in this case, I think there is fire. Smith has outright stated that the Buccaneers would look at a QB in the draft and both he and GM Jason Licht have been sniffing around the A&M product throughout the draft process. It could all be a smokescreen for interest in another player, but the Buccaneers get their QB of the future here.
8. Minnesota Vikings (Clark12to81) -- Anthony Barr (OLB/DE) UCLA -- Chad Greenway is the only starting-caliber linebacker on the Vikings defense so Mike Zimmer will need to add some playmakers especially with the departure of Jared Allen. Barr, who is a converted HB/FB is similar to Ezekiel Ansah (Detroit) a year ago as far as an unpolished physical freak that can both set the edge and terrorize opponents back fields and put pressure on the QB as a blitzer. Zimmer had similar success with Michael Johnson in Cincinnati so the barr has been set high for Anthony.
9. Buffalo Bills (Mike Reiss) -- Jake Matthews (OT) Texas A&M -- Was strongly considering tight end Eric Ebron here to give QB EJ Manuel another weapon, but when the offensive tackles started to slide, that led me to a player I wasn't expecting to be available. The Bills have Cordy Glenn at left tackle, but Matthews could slide right in on the right side in his rookie season.
10. Detroit Lions (Mr. Scratch) -- Justin Gilbert (CB) Oklahoma State -- The Lions' secondary has been a sore spot for a while and getting the top DB in the draft here would fall in line too nicely to pass on.
11. New York Jets (Mr. Scratch, via trade) -- Eric Ebron (TE), North Carolina -- After a passive free agency, GM John Idzik gets aggressive to continue to try to improve the Jets' offense. With 12 picks coming in and without sacrificing huge value, he moves seven spots and lands the top receiving tight end in the draft.
12. New York Giants (Clark12to87) -- Taylor Lewan (OT) Michigan -- The original idea was to draft Ebron to add a new dynamic to the Giants floundering offense. With Ebron unavailable the next choice would be to add some talent to an overmatched offensive line. Left tackle is a top need as Will Beatty gave up 13 sacks and added another nine penalties last season. Lewan will go a long way to help Eli stay upright and help get the Giants offense back on track. Aaron Donald is also a strong consideration.
13. St. Louis Rams (Mike Reiss) -- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (safety) Alabama -- No joke, it's Ha Ha to fill a large void on the depth chart. With Watkins at No. 2 and Clinton-Dix at 13, the RGIII trade continues to pay dividends in St. Louis.
14. Chicago Bears (Mr. Scratch) -- Aaron Donald (DT) Pittsburgh -- The Bears continue to revamp their defense adding another trench player, although the secondary is becoming a bigger need by the day. With defensive back more readily available in the second round, defensive line is the pick at 14.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (PatsFanTRichter) -- Darqueze Dennard (CB) Michigan State -- The Steelers haven't invested heavily at the cornerback position in recent years, preferring to get by with Ike Taylor and spare parts bolstered by a strong front seven. But these aren't the Steelers of old, with a depleted defense and two straight seasons of mediocrity. Taylor is fairly old and depleted at this point as well, and the team can't continue to rely on scheme adjustments to ameliorate his limitations. Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert have shown interest in the Michigan State product, attending his pro day in person and hosting Dennard in Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit. The Steelers aren't as concerned with a lack of speed at the corner, preferring size, length and the ability to play press coverage, and Dennard provides all that in spades.
16. Dallas Cowboys (Clark12to87) -- Kony Ealy (DE) Missouri -- The Cowboys will need more than George Selvie and ex-Patriot Jeremy Mincey to replace departed DeMarcus Ware. While Anthony Spencer was brought back over the weekend, he is coming off a major injury and is only on a one-year deal. Ealy can be brought along slowly as a third-down rusher until he learns to better play the run. Ryan Shazier could also be a strong possibility at No. 16 as well, as he and Sean Lee would combine to make a dynamic duo of linebackers in Dallas' sub packages.
17. San Francisco 49ers (Mr. Scratch, via trade) -- Kyle Fuller (CB) Virginia Tech -- The 49ers get aggressive holding a plethora of top 100 picks and jump up with the Ravens who never seem to mind moving back. The losses of Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown have left a hole at cornerback with incumbents Chris Culliver (issues aside) and Tramaine Brock more suited for the slot. San Francisco has seen the value of having a taller, lanky guy on the outside in this division and a string of teams lay ahead that could all reasonably go cornerback, so they move to get the best outside option left.
18. Tennessee Titans (via trade, PatsFanTRichter) -- C.J. Mosley (ILB) Alabama -- Tennessee faces a lot of uncertainty across its roster, with Jake Locker yet to seize the mantle of franchise quarterback, a re-tooled offensive line and a changing defensive scheme, not to mention the departures of Alterraun Verner and Chris Johnson. A defensive player that can serve as a foundation piece for their new scheme seems to be in order, and Tennessee had one of the worst linebacking corps in recent memory. While the Titans signed Wesley Woodyard to a fairly lucrative contract, they need more answers at the position, and Mosley projects to step in from Day 1 and start in the middle of Tennessee's 3-4 defense.
19. Miami Dolphins (PatsFanTRichter) -- Zach Martin (OT/OG) Notre Dame -- Miami surely wants to rebuild its offensive line and its reputation from the ground up in the wake of the Jonathan Martin scandal, which means that character will take on added importance in the evaluation process for the Dolphins' new front office this year. Martin is considered as clean a prospect as there is on and off the field, with positional versatility and consistent performance in college. Short arms might limit him to an interior position ultimately, but the Dolphins will be more than happy to give Martin ample opportunity to win a starting job at either tackle position.
20. Arizona Cardinals (Clark12to87) -- Calvin Pryor (safety), Louisville -- Arizona tops off the safety position after drafting Tyrann Mathieu a year ago and Patrick Peterson (cornerback) two seasons ago. This could be one of the top secondaries in the NFL. While not as big as longtime Cardinals enforcer Adrian Wilson, Pryor will bring the same instincts and aggressive style of play. The Cardinals will keep pace with the rest of the NFC West. Another pass-rusher could be added to aid aging John Abraham later in the draft.
21. Green Bay Packers (Mike Reiss) -- Ryan Shazier (LB), Ohio State -- Fast, instinctive linebackers like Shazier are rare and the Packers see the opportunity to pair him inside with A.J. Hawk and instantly upgrade their coverage ability. This is a player we liked for the Patriots if he unexpectedly slid down to No. 29. The sliding WRs were also a consideration here.
22. Denver Broncos (via trade, PatsFanTRichter) -- Xavier Su'a-Filo (OG) UCLA -- The Broncos have two major holes, one at offensive guard and the other at inside linebacker. The Chiefs also have a major need at guard. With the opportunity to move ahead of their division rivals for perhaps the top interior lineman in the draft, the Broncos pounce. Protecting their aging Hall of Fame quarterback is of the utmost importance to a Broncos franchise desperate for a Super Bowl win, and Su'a-Filo is a natural for a zone blocking scheme, but can also dominate one-on-one, especially in the run game.
23. Kansas City Chiefs (PatsFanTRichter) -- Odell Beckham Jr. (WR) LSU -- The Chiefs are disappointed to lose out on Su'a-Filo, but wide receiver is just as big a hole for a Kansas City team that likely fancies itself a Super Bowl contender, and they're happy with Beckham Jr. as a consolation prize. Dexter McCluster is gone and Donnie Avery isn't a suitable No. 2 receiver, and Andy Reid has shown the ability to get high end production out of fast but diminutive receivers in the past. Beckham Jr. also has shown ability as a punt returner, which would help offset the loss of McCluster on special teams.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (Clark12to87) -- Stephon Tuitt (DE) Notre Dame -- As a Patriots fan, I hate to do this, but it's the best player available and fills a big need on the Bengals' defense after Michael Johnson departed in free agency. Tuitt can play defensive end in a 4-3 set, move inside to defensive tackle, or play the 5-technique (RDE) in the 3-4. Marvin Lewis will love the versatility that Tuitt brings to the defense as they try to stay on top of the AFC North.
25. San Diego Chargers (Mike Reiss) -- Brandin Cooks (WR) Oregon State -- There were two schools of thought here: Go for the undersized cornerback (Jason Verrett) to try to create resistance in a division in which you're chasing Peyton Manning, or go with the undersized receiver in an attempt to keep up with Manning and Co. Cooks is dynamic and can fly. Pair him with Keenan Allen and now you're one step closer to matching Manning. Have to think cornerback in the second round.
26. Cleveland Browns (Mr. Scratch) -- Derek Carr (QB) Fresno State -- The Browns are back up at the top of the second and could wait to see what shakes out, but after surveying the options here it looks like getting the top QB pick on their board here would make sense instead of gambling he makes it back around. It was a tough call as personally I'd wait, so this is really more based on conjecture that Cleveland likes Carr. Prime example of trying to balance what you'd do against what you think the team will do.
27. New Orleans Saints (PatsFanTRichter) - Dee Ford (DE/OLB) Auburn -- While the outside linebacker designation is purely theoretical at this point, Rob Ryan could use a player like Ford coming off the edge to attack the quarterback. Junior Galette had a nice season, but Parys Haralson and Victor Butler were nothing to write home about. The defensive line is solid, but outside of Cameron Jordan, doesn't generate a ton of pressure on its own. While the Saints could use a few more secondary players, none of the prospects available here represent tremendous value.
28. Carolina Panthers (Clark12to87) -- Marqise Lee (WR), USC -- Carolina needs some new targets for Cam Newton after losing starters Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell in free agency. Lee should have every opportunity to see playing time right away and I expect the Panthers to select at least one or two more pass-catchers before the end of the draft. Kelvin Benjamin (Florida State) would also be intriguing as he has the size to be a red zone threat and a capable blocker to support the Panthers' run game. I'll go with Lee as he's a little more polished and Carolina needs help right away.
29. New England Patriots (Mike Reiss) -- Joel Bitonio (OT/OG), Nevada -- This has shades of the Logan Mankins pick at the end of the first round in 2005. No frills, but effective. Ideally, you'd like to trade back. Was hoping for Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt or Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier here. Each of the big defensive tackles on the board gives me pause as too risky for the Patriots' liking -- Notre Dame's Louis Nix (knee), Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman (inconsistent) and Florida State's Timmy Jernigan (scheme fit). It seems too early for a center, running back or tight end here. So I'm going with a rock-solid Day 1 starter at right guard who offers me long-term insurance at left tackle if Nate Solder isn't re-signed after 2015. Bitonio looks like a Patriots-type lineman.
30. Baltimore Ravens (via trade, Mike Reiss) -- Morgan Moses (OT), Virginia -- The Ravens are thrilled because this is who we had on the card when the 49ers called to trade at No. 17, so there is a feeling that a third- and fourth-round pick were acquired for the same player who would have been selected at No. 17. Could be an immediate starter at right tackle.
31. Philadelphia (Mr. Scratch) -- Cody Latimer (WR) Indiana -- Latimer is a potential riser who has been linked to the Eagles recently. Philadelphia has a need at receiver with the losses of DJax and Jason Avant, and Jeremy Maclin on a one-year deal. The Eagles get some extra value and still end up with a player in their wheelhouse. Insiders view: Due to these factors, moving down in this draft looks to be tough. 20-60 doesn't appear to be a huge difference.
32. Seattle Seahawks (Clark12to81) -- DT Ra'Shede Hageman (DT) Minnesota -- He may be a perfect fit for the role that was left vacated by Red Bryant in free agency. The Super Bowl champs have the luxury in going in many different directions with this pick. They could go wide receiver, offensive line or d-line. Seattle has the depth to let Hageman sit and learn, which may very well be the best approach for the inconsistent yet highly talented Hageman.
After the draft, we invited each of the three readers to share what they would have done at No. 29 with the Patriots’ pick:
29. New England Patriots (Mr. Scratch) -- Bishop Sankey (RB) Washington -- It's hard to believe that the Patriots have tremendous faith in either Stevan Ridley (reliability) or Shane Vereen (health) moving forward. Both players will be free agents after the 2014 season and it doesn't seem like a big stretch to imagine one (at least) won't be retained in 2015. Sankey would provide significant flexibility to the mix in his ability to fill multiple roles as a between tackles runner, blocker and receiver out of the backfield and as his potential to develop into a lead back in a split situation with either Ridley/ Vereen or a veteran partner. The Patriots are pretty thin otherwise with only depth/ ST option Brandon Bolden in tow. Sankey is 22 years-old and has a solid growth curve ahead of him.
29. New England Patriots (PatsFanTRichter) -- Trade down or DT Ra'Shede Hageman (DT) Minnesota. If the draft unfolded like this, my first choice would be to trade down, but if I had to take a player there, it would be Hageman. Too much athletic upside to pass up at that late juncture. Richburg or maybe Martin if they wanted to go offensive line, but those are all second-round players to me. Hageman is the only first-round talent left up there, so definitely a trade down. I love Sankey, but I would never take a running back in the first round.
29. New England Patriots (Clark12to87) -- Trade down. I'd be thrilled with Shazier or Tuitt, but if the draft falls like it did today, I feel like the team could double-up in the second or even trade up and pick three times and call it a day. My top three players to fit the Patriots' needs are TE Troy Niklas, DE Scott Crichton and OLB Trent Murphy.
Welcome to the fifth-annual ESPNBoston.com mock draft!"Mr. Scratch", "PatsFanTRichter", and "Clark12to81", three regulars in the comments section who add terrific insight to this blog, joined me in doing the selecting.