I’ve grown tired of Mock Drafts, so instead I’ve made myself the hypothetical GM of every NFL team and simulated the first round of this year’s draft (If Kevin Costner can be a fictional GM, why can’t I?). Anyway, I wrote about the first 10 picks in Part 1. Check back tomorrow for Part 3.
We’re now entering the middle of the first round. You still with me? Good. Most of the big players may be off the board, but the following names are worth learning, as you’ll be hearing them on Sundays for a long time to come. Without further ado, here are the next eleven picks (Sorry, 32 is a weird number and isn’t divided by three evenly).
11. Tennessee Titans
The Pick: Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
The Method to the Madness: I imagine this pick being made with Tennessee’s new coach Ken Whisenhunt in the background demanding we take a quarterback. Or, more specifically, we draft Kurt Warner, despite countless advisors explaining to him that Kurt Warner has retired and is not available to be drafted. Whisenhunt had his most success when his teams were blessed with Pro Bowl caliber quarterbacks (don’t we all). When he was left to coach up sub-par prospects, such as John Skelton and Ryan Lindley, his teams floundered.
The jury is still out on Jake Locker, whose injury-plagued history has restricted him from playing more than 11 games in a single season. I’m not a believer in Locker, but this is the time to grab talent over need. Gilbert was a 2nd Team All-American and Jim Thorpe Award Finalist in 2013. In an NFL when rule changes make it so advantageous for teams to throw all over the field, teams will always need talented defensive backs. Gilbert is probably the second-best defensive back in a very deep class. Last season, seven defensive backs were selected in the first round. If I were GM for a day, I would have four going in the first half of this year’s first round. These players are that talented, and that is a necessary to a team’s success. Gilbert is a steal for Tennessee.
12. New York Giants
The Pick: Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
The Method to the Madness: Fun fact: Aaron Donald’s 40 time at the NFL Combine was the same as Johnny Manziel’s. Donald is 6’1” and weighs 285 lbs. Manziel is a smaller 5’11” and 207 lbs. They both ran a 4.68 second 40-yard dash. Aaron Donald is one fast dude. Picking Donald is a no brainer. Both of the Giants’ recent Super Bowl wins were on the backs of defensive lineman like Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, and Jason Pierre-Paul. Aaron Donald looks primed to be the next great lineman to live on in Giants lore.
13. St. Louis Rams
The Pick: Zach Martin (OT, Notre Dame)
The Method to the Madness: The Rams already made their flashy selection of Mike Evans (in the real world, probably Sammy Watkins); now it’s time to make a pick that is absolutely needed. Football Outsiders ranked the 2013 St. Louis offensive line as an average pass blocking unit and a subpar run blocking squad, and that was before Jake Long torn his ACL and MCL in Week 16. Martin will go a long way to creating a dominant offensive line that will allow the team’s playmakers to flourish. By the time the first round is halfway complete, St. Louis’s offensive attack could consist of Mike Evans, Tavon Austin, and Zac Stacey, with a stronger offensive line to ensure everything runs smoothly. This is all assuming the Rams don’t trade down and opt to draft even more talent later in the draft. The Rams accumulated depth these past two years, however, so now it’s time for star talent. Sadly, offensive tackles don’t sell jerseys, and any success by the Rams’ skill position players starts with a strong offensive line. Don’t sleep on the Rams as a playoff team next season.
14. Chicago Bears
The Pick: Timmy Jernigan (DT, Florida State)
The Method to the Madness: Jernigan is the type of player that has running backs checking under their beds before they go to sleep. While Florida State’s Heisman winning quarterback garnered most of the media attention, the Seminoles’ defense, lead by Jernigan, was one of the nation’s best. Florida State posted the 18th best run defense in the FBS, led by Jernigan’s 63 tackles, with a team leading 11 tackles for a loss. The 2013 Chicago Bear’s run defense, on the other hand, was more porous than a certain pineapple that lives under the sea. The Bears allowed the most rushing yards in the league, 400 more than the second worst Atlanta Falcons. The also allowed the most yards per attempt and second-most rushing touchdowns in the NFL. The Bears need a run stuffer. Jernigan is the type of player that could bring back the Monsters of the Midway nickname. To the running backs of the NFC North, start checking under your bed.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
The Method to the Madness: It’s a toss-up between Dennard, Gilbert and Clinton-Dix for the Best Cornerback in the Draft Title, but I think Ha Ha wins simply by having the coolest nickname. Still, Dennard receives quite the consolation prize by heading to Pittsburgh, where he would play opposite Ike Taylor. The Michigan State alum was part of a defense that allowed the third fewest passing yards per game in the FBS last season. Dennard was largely responsible for the team’s success, leading the squad with 10 passes defended and 4 interceptions. For his efforts, Dennard was unanimously named a 2013 1st Team All-American and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in college football. Still, if Dennard does end up in Pittsburgh, he will have a long way to go before stealing the title of Best Hairdo away from Troy Polamalu.
16. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
The Method to the Madness: Congratulations, Bradley Roby, you just became the draft’s annual sacrificial lamb that is shipped off the slaughter house Dallas Cowboys! Seriously, Jerry World is where talented, young defensive backs go to die, and then are given ridiculously large contracts for their incompetence. It’s Jerry Jones’ personal spin on The Patriot Way. The Cowboys have selected seven defensive backs over the past four drafts and yet last season Dallas gave up the third most passing yards and the second most passing touchdowns to their opponents. The Cowboys need help in their secondary and Roby would be a big step in that direction. Roby started three years at Ohio State and was a 2012 2nd Team AP All-American, but I can already feel Jerry’s presence corrupting him. I’m sorry Bradley. I truly am.
17. Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: Calvin Pryor (FS, Louisville)
The Method to the Madness: The Ravens won the Super Bowl two seasons ago on the backs of players in the final year of their contracts. Once Anquan Boldin, Bernard Pollard, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and others bolted for greener pastures (and by greener, I mean more money), the Ravens didn’t have the depth to compete in 2013. The Ravens still need to fill holes all over their roster, including adding help on the offensive side of the ball, but Calvin Pryor is too good to pass up with the 17th pick. Pryor is an incredibly strong safety who will fit perfectly into the physical style Baltimore loves to play. He was an All-ACC Team selection in 2013 and when paired with Matt Elam, would create the most dominant pair of young safeties in the league.
18. New York Jets
The Pick: Odell Beckam Jr. (WR, LSU)
The Method to the Madness: For the love of God, let the Jets draft a wide receiver. Fun fact: The Jets haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since 2007, and that receiver was named Jerricho Cotchery. The Jets’ leading receiver the past two seasons was Jeremy Kerley. This was partly a result of having Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith throw the majority of their passes, but the Jets need to upgrade their receiving options as well. New York started this process in the offseason, signing Eric Decker to a 5-year contract worth $36.25 million. However, Decker had most of his success as a #2 receiver, lining up opposite Demaryius Thomas. Odell Beckam has the potential to the anchor of the Jets new passing attack. Beckam certainly isn’t the next Thomas (at only 5’11” and 198 lbs, he much smaller compared to Thomas’ 6’3″ 229 lb frame). But Beckham brings with him amazing hands, blazing speed and agility that could have him carving up secondaries in week one. Just watch his college highlight reel (please ignore the dubstep). Geno Smith has yet to prove himself as a NFL-caliber quarterback, but with the offseason additions of Decker and Chris Johnson, and drafting Beckham, the Jets are quickly building one of the speediest offenses in the league.
19. Miami Dolphins
The Pick: Taylor Lewan (OT, Michigan)
The Method to the Madness: The Dolphins would never make this selection. It would be a PR nightmare for Miami if they chose Lewan, which is exactly why I’m making it. Subconsciously, there is a little bit of my innate hatred of the Dolphins peeking through as I’m a devout Jets fan (a noted oxymoron). But consciously, this would be the perfect storm of a pick following the Richie Icognito scandal in which the Dolphins’ former offensive lineman bullied teammate Jonathan Martin until the later player quit the team. The Dolphins claimed ignorance during the whole ordeal, which I hardly believe, but if true, would constitute a level of incompetence so great; it could only result in them drafting Lewan as his replacement.
The former Michigan offensive lineman is facing one count of aggravated assault and two counts of assault and battery, which won’t be resolved until after the draft. While a serious police record should be a deterrent, judging by how the NFL handled Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancé unconscious, these charges don’t seem to have affected Lewan’s draft status. I think it would be poet justice for the Dolphins to finally rid themselves of Incognito, who brought so much unwanted attention on the franchise last season, and replace him with Lewan. In reality, Lewan will most likely be taken before the Dolphins can select him with their 19th pick. Miami should be drafting an offensive lineman, but we can always hope it’s Lewan.
Bonus Thought: Why can’t I go an entire article about the NFL without becoming thoroughly depressed about the sport? Concussions, bullying, players committing assaulting women with little repercussion, my New York Jets. It seems to always be gloom and doom at some point. Maybe it’s because the NFL is morally corrupt at its core and we’re just too distracted by the fancy uniforms and our fantasy football teams. Who knows. Anyway, on with the draft!
20. Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
The Method to the Madness: It’s no great revelation to say that we live in the era of the tight end. Although Jimmy Graham is fighting to be recognized as (and paid like) a wide receiver, the value of a dominant tight end is evident. I find it no coincidence that teams lucky enough to have one of the league’s premier tight ends (the Patriots with Gronk, Saints and Graham, the 49ers with Vernon Davis, and the Falcons and the now retired Anthony Gonzalez) consistently produced one of the leagues better offensive units. Ebron is far and away the best tight end prospect in the draft. Last season, he broke the ACC record for receiving yards by a tight end with 973 yards, passing the former record holder Vernon Davis. Ebron has both the speed to be a legitimate threat in the passing attack (he ran a 4.60 second 40-yard dash at the combine) and the size to provide help blocking (at 6’4” and 250 lbs, Ebron is no push over).
21. Green Bay Packers
The Pick: C.J. Mosely (ILB, Alabama)
The Method to the Madness: Someone needs to play some defense while Clay Matthews off is filming shampoo commercials. Luckily, Mosley’s crew cut will limit his endorsement opportunities and keep him on the field. Jokes about Mathews’s luscious locks aside, the Packers’ star linebacker has missed nine games over the last two seasons. Green Bay is loaded with offensive weapons, but porous on defense. The Packers allowed the 5th most rushing yards per attempt in the league last season. The Pack will again be facing Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, and Reggie Bush two times a season, which means improving their run defense is a must. Mosely was the 2013 Butkus Award winner as the best linebacker in the nation and was Alabama’s leading tackler two season’s in a row. He’s a great fit for the Packers defense, as long as he develops his signature celebration.
That concludes Part 2 of this Draft extravaganza. Remember to come back tomorrow for Part 3 and remember to keep all of the Cowboys’ draft picks in your thoughts. They will need your support now more than ever.