2014 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

We are now only a few days away from the real deal…the 2014 NFL Annual Selection Meeting, aka The Draft. I knew when I did my initial mock draft back in February that a lot of things would change over the course of time. Free agency has significantly altered the landscape, as it tends to do each year. Several teams filled some holes, while others have new needs that we weren’t sure they’d have a couple of months ago. The Combine and various pro days have raised the profile of some players, while cooling the enthusiasm for others. We now have a much clearer picture of the direction many teams may or atleast should go. Once again let me remind you that this is a three round mock, and I do throw in a few trades. Real trades that are already in place will say “via/X Team” in parentheses, while trades that are purely my own creation will say “trade w/X Team”. So without any further ado let’s look into the ol’ crystal ball and see what we might expect from this year’s draft.

 

 

 

Round 1

1 Houston Texans
DE Jadeveon Clowney (Clemson)
At one point I was firmly convinced that the Texans would be able to trade out of this spot and amass a boatload of picks. However, as things have progressed that has houston-texans-mobile-wallpaperbecome a far less likely scenario. No one seems completely sold on this year’s crop of quarterbacks, so teams will be mostly content to stay where they are and let a signal caller fall to them. Clowney is a rare prospect who I believe will put the pedal to the medal when it counts. The combination of Clowney & JJ Watt instantly makes Houston’s defense one of the most feared in the NFL. They can snag a quarterback later.

 

2 St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)
LB Khalil Mack (Buffalo)
The Rams are in a tough position. They’d probably jump at the opportunity to trade down, but the lukewarm affection for the quarterbacks makes it St_Louis_Ramsdoubtful that anyone will offer much to move up to this spot. Mack has been getting a lot of love and has drawn comparisons to Denver Broncos’ linebacker Von Miller.

 

3 Jacksonville Jaguars
WR Sammy Watkins (Clemson)
Watkins is far & away the best skill player in this year’s draft. The Jags are losing receiver Justin Blackmon due to an indefinite suspension for substance abuse, and to Jacksonville_Jaguarsbe honest Blackmon had been a bit of a disappointment anyway. If he comes back and pans out…great. But if not Watkins is a fantastic replacement. Jacksonville too can get their quarterback later.

 

4 Baltimore Ravens (trade w/Cleveland Browns)
T Greg Robinson (Auburn)
What to do?? The Browns had their eye on Watkins but he is off the board. It is probably too early to pull the trigger on one of the quarterbacks in this spot. With MitchellBaltimore_Ravens2 Schwartz and All-Pro Joe Thomas manning the tackle spots there is no need for the Browns to spend this pick on that position. However, though no one is likely to trade up for a QB there may be a few suitors looking for a franchise tackle. The Ravens lost Michael Oher (you remember The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock, right??) in free agency but did re-sign Eugene Monroe. I don’t think it really matters who plays left and who plays right. With guys like Robinson & Monroe Baltimore’s offensive line once again looks formidable.

 

5 Oakland Raiders
T Jake Matthews (Texas A&M)
With Robinson off the board the Raiders are forced to go with option B. They don’t need a quarterback after signing Matt Schaub this offseason, and Matthews should raidersbe a solid franchise tackle for the next decade.

 

6 Atlanta Falcons
LB Anthony Barr (UCLA)
Barr is the best pass rusher available and might be a steal even at this spot. There could be some buzz about the Vikings & Bucs looking to movefalcons up to get the quarterback they want, but at the end of the day I think both will stand pat.

 

7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Blake Bortles (Central Florida)
There’s a new regime in Tampa. There will be a new quarterback because not even the old regime was completely sold on Mike Glennon. BortlesTampa_Bay_Buccaneers_Helmet has prototype size & measurables. The only knock against him is the fact that he played at a C-USA school instead of an SEC, Big 10, or Pac 12 school. It should also help that Bortles will be well known to the Tampa crowd since Central Florida is just down the road.
8 New York Giants (trade w/Minnesota Vikings)
WR Mike Evans (Texas A&M)
The Vikings need a quarterback as well, but it’s still too early. The Giants need a receiver to replace the departed Hakeem Nicks. It’s a win/win for both teams.Giants Logo

 

9 Buffalo Bills
T Taylor Lewan (Michigan)
The Bills won’t waste any time turning in their draft card when they see the only remaining tackle worthy of a Top 10 pick still on the board.Buffalo_Bills_Helmet

 

10 Detroit Lions
CB Darquez Dennard (Michigan St.)
The Lions defensive backfield was atrocious last season, and the Seattle Seahawks have proven how important a great Detroit_Lions_Helmetsecondary can be.

 

11 Tennessee Titans
DT Aaron Donald
Do the Titans need a quarterback?? Or will the Jake Locker era be given a one year reprieve?? EitherTennessee_Titans_Helmet way Tennessee passes on a signal caller here and goes for the highest rated defensive lineman on the board.

 

12 Minnesota Vikings (trade w/New York Giants)
QB Derek Carr (Fresno St.)
The Vikings get the quarterback of the future. Atleast until next year. Two strikes against Carr: small school, and the fact that his older brothervikingshelmet1 David is one of the more notable busts in recent memory. Fair?? Probably not. Only time will tell.

 

13 St. Louis Rams
S Hasean Clinton-Dix
With their second 1st round pick the Rams continue to upgrade a defense that ranked 15th in the league in 2013. Not bad…but not great either.St_Louis_Rams

 

14 Chicago Bears
CB Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma St.)
The Bears had their eye on Clinton-Dix, but have other needs as well. Gilbert is a significant upgrade for a defense that ranked 30th out of 32 chicago-bears-logo13teams last season.

 

15 Cleveland Browns (trade w/Pittsburgh Steelers)
QB Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)
The Browns are spooked by rumors that the Cowboys may be interested in Manziel. The rumors are probably poppycock, Cleveland_Browns_Helmetbut then again Jerry Jones is nuttier than a damn fruitcake so who knows?? At any rate, Johnny Football is one of the most polarizing prospects I’ve ever seen. Is he more like Fran Tarkenton or Fran Drescher?? Is he Drew Brees or Drew Stanton?? Can he be tamed just enough to become a good NFL quarterback without losing the improv skills that make him special?? Is he sturdy enough to make it thru an NFL season?? Getting two people to agree on Manziel is like trying to find a bipartisan political candidate that everyone likes. Only time will tell, but in the meantime the Browns pretty much have to pull the trigger here.

 

16 Dallas Cowboys
LB Ryan Shazier (Ohio St.)
DeMarcus Ware signed with the Denver Broncos in the offseason so the Cowboys have to rebuild the defense. Shazier is smaller than Ware and is much more dallas-cowboys-dallas-cowboys-15496395-1280-1024comparable to guys like former NFL stars Sam Mills or Zach Thomas. He’s fast & can get to the quarterback, or he can drop back in coverage.

 

17 Pittsburgh Steelers (trade w/Baltimore Ravens & Cleveland Browns)
CB Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech)
The Steelers are disappointed that both Dennard & Gilbert are off the board, along with the top tackles. They could use a receiver to replace thediamond-steelers departed Emanuel Sanders & Jerricho Cotchery, but after signing Lance Moore & Darrius Heyward-Bey it’s not as big of an issue, especially with the top two wideouts off the board. The best player available that fits a need is Fuller, who can get his feet wet this season and then take over for Ike Taylor in 2015.

 

18 New York Jets
TE Eric Ebron (North Carolina)
The signing of free agent receiver Eric Decker doesn’t completely eliminate the need to draft a wideout, but it makes it less of a priority. The valueJets-Pin-Pro at this spot is tight end. In the past few years a big athletic tight end has become a huge weapon in the NFL…almost a necessity. And right now the Jets tight ends are Jeff Cumberand, Zach Sudfeld, & Chris Pantale, which sounds more like the accounting faculty at a junior college.

 

19 Miami Dolphins
G Zack Martin (Notre Dame)
The Dolphins solidify their offensive line with someone who hopefully won’t find themselves in the midst of an idiotic bullying scandal. Nearly everyMiami_Dolphins_Helmet mock draft I have seen has Martin going to the Dolphins, so who am I to rock the boat??

 

 

20 Carolina Panthers (trade w/Arizona Cardinals)
T Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama)
The Panthers need to replace the retired Jordan Gross on the offensive line. Yes wide receiver is also a priority, but they can carolina_panthers_logo-14336address that need in later rounds. A franchise left tackle is more important. It’s worth the price to move up.

 

 

21 Green Bay Packers
S Calvin Pryor (Louisville)
The Packers have long been considered one of the NFL’s best teams but the truth is that the offense…lead by QB Aaron Rogers and a plethora ofGreen_Bay_Packers_Helmet good receivers…has covered for some weaknesses on the defense. They can’t pass on a hard-nosed athletic safety that can play centerfield for the next decade.

 

22 Philadelphia Eagles
LB CJ Moseley (Alabama)
Head coach Chip Kelly is an offensive guru, but if he really wants to take his team to the top he needs to pay attention to the defense. Moseley is a well-rounded player philadelphia_eagles-3715with tremendous leadership skills.

 

23 Kansas City Chiefs
WR Marqise Lee (USC)
The Chiefs need another weapon for quarterback Alex Smith. With this move WR Dwayne Bowe will see less double teams and the Chiefs might not implode late in the kc-chiefs-logoseason like they did last year.

 

24 Cincinnati Bengals
DE Dee Ford (Auburn)
The Bengals are a solid playoff team so they can afford to reach just a bit for a pass rusher with a big upside. This pick might look like pure genius Cincinnati_Bengals_Helmetin 3 or 4 years.

 

25 San Diego Chargers
G Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA)
The Chargers flew under the radar in 2013 and right into the playoffs. Time may be running out for quarterback Philip Rivers to fulfill the potentialSan_Diego_Chargers_Helmet3 so many thought he had when drafted a decade ago. The best way to maximize his abilities is to keep him upright and give him time to find a receiver downfield.

 

26 Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts)
WR Brandin Cooks (Oregon St.)
The Browns have addressed the quarterback issue by drafting Johnny Football and also signing free agents Vince Young & Tyler Thigpen (and don’t forget Brian Hoyer Cleveland_Browns_Helmetis still around recovering from a torn ACL). They also signed free agent RB Ben Tate who is ready to be a feature back after backing up Arian Foster in Houston for the past few years. There are certainly opportunities to trade out of this spot, but instead the Browns get Manziel a speedy slot receiver.

 

27 Houston Texans (trade w/New Orleans Saints)
QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)
The Texans trade back into the first round due to concern that the Arizona Cardinals may be looking for a quarterback as well. Bridgewater was once considered a houston texans logo2potential #1 overall pick but questions have arisen…as they always do. Much like Manziel it is a 50/50 proposition as to whether Bridgewater will be a competent NFL quarterback or a complete bust, but with a QB depth chart that includes Case Keenum, TJ Yates, & Ryan Fitzpatrick Houston has to make this move.

 

28 Arizona Cardinals (trade w/Carolina Panthers)
S Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois)
The Cards will be mildly disappointed that the top tier quarterbacks are all gone, but not terribly so. They can get another year or two out of 34 year old Carson Palmer nflarizonacardinalsand still may be able to snag a pretty good signal caller in a later round that they can develop slowly. Ward joins a stellar defensive backfield that includes Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Petersen, & Antonio Cromartie.

 

29 New England Patriots
TE Jace Amaro (Texas Tech)
The Patriots need to move on from the Aaron Hernandez mess and of course we all know that Rob Gronkowski has become unreliable on a variety of levels. Tom BradyNew_England_Patriots_Helmet is just plain better when he has a big dependable target that can go up and get the ball.

 

30 San Francisco 49ers
CB Bradley Roby (Ohio St.)
The 49ers are still amongst the top teams in the NFL, but they must be vigilant in not letting the team get old. Roby should improve the secondary,San-Francisco-49ers and if the Seattle Seahawks proved anything it’s that an awesome secondary can be a key to a championship.

 

31 Denver Broncos
G Joel Bitonio (Nevada)
I have really been impressed with what the Broncos have done in the offseason. They let the ancient Champ Bailey move on to New Orleans and broncos-4759replaced him with Aqib Talib. They further upgraded the secondary with safety TJ Ward, who fled Cleveland like a Ukrainian refugee. They signed receiver Emmanuel Sanders away from the Steelers. Sanders isn’t a top flight wideout but he’s a reliable third or fourth option which is all Peyton Manning really needs and I think he can be every bit as productive as the departed Eric Decker. And DeMarcus Ware left the dysfunctional Cowboys and will now be sacking opposing quarterbacks for Denver. I think the focus now becomes protecting Manning. A team can never have enough solid offensive linemen.

 

32 Seattle Seahawks
T Morgan Moses (Virginia)
The defending Super Bowl Champions would be the odds on favorite to repeat without adding a single player to their roster. However, they did suffer some losses this seattle-seahawks1offseason. Offensive tackle Breno Giacomini is now with the NY Jets. Defensive end Red Bryant signed a free agent contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who also signed another Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons. Receiver Golden Tate departed to the Detroit Lions. Percy Harvin & Sidney Rice are both back and reportedly healthy, so I don’t think receiver is a top priority. The signing of Michael Bennett eases the pain of the loss of Clemons & Bryant. Moses solidifies an offensive line that absolutely must protect QB Russell Wilson and create holes for RB Marshawn Lynch for Seattle to have the same level of success in 2014 as they had last year.

 

 

Round 2

33 New Orleans Saints (trade w/Houston Texans)
CB Jason Verrett (TCU)
There are a few intriguing receivers on the board, but the secondary is a bigger need. Verrett can spend a year learning from 112 year old Champ Bailey and then take his starting spot next season when Bailey is at home yelling at kids to get off his damn lawn.

 

34 Washington Redskins
DT Rashede Hageman (Minnesota)
The Redskins didn’t have a first round choice after trading it away a couple years ago in the draft day deal that brought them quarterback RGIII. They still end up getting first round talent though, and improve their defense in the process.

 

35 Pittsburgh Steelers (trade w/Cleveland Browns)
DE Kony Ealy (Missouri)
The Steelers were a lot more active in free agency than usual, plugging holes at nose tackle (Cam Thomas, formerly of the Chargers), safety (Mike Mitchell, formerly of the Panthers), and wide receiver (Lance Moore, formerly of the Saints, and Darrius Heyward-Bey, formerly of the Colts). I think that’s more offseason additions than Pittsburgh has made in the previous 5 seasons combined. However, they are still a bit thin at defensive end even if former first round pick Cameron Heyward develops into what he needs to become.

 

36 Oakland Raiders
WR Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU)
After missing out on Sammy Watkins in Round 1 the Raiders will be pleased to see Beckham still on the board. He should immediately challenge Rod Streeter & Denarius Moore for a starting spot.

 

37 Atlanta Falcons
DE Demarcus Lawrence (Boise St.)
The Falcons continue to upgrade their pass rush. Tyson Jackson came over from the Kansas City Chiefs in the offseason but Jonathan Babineux is 32 years old. Lawrence can be added into the rotation gradually.

 

38 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
T JaWuan James (Tennessee)
Whether Bortles seizes the starting QB job immediately or Josh McCown mans the position for awhile it is vitally important to provide either guy with as much protection as possible. James would have an opportunity to compete for a starting job.

 

39 Jacksonville Jaguars
QB Tom Savage (Pitt)
Bortles, Manziel, Bridgewater, & Carr are all off the board, but the Jags have their pick of the second tier QBs, some of whom have been rising up draft boards and may end up being just as good or better as the first wave. Savage has been getting a lot of love in the past few weeks and has drawn comparisons to Drew Bledsoe. If absolutely necessary Jacksonville can start Chad Henne this season and let Savage develop.

 

40 Minnesota Vikings
LB Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech)
With Derek Carr in the fold the Vikings can now concentrate on other needs. Attaochu would likely become an immediate starter in Minnesota’s 3-4 scheme alongside veteran Chad Greenway.

 

41 Buffalo Bills
WR Kelvin Benjamin (Florida St.)
Buffalo’s receiving corps is solid but uninspiring. Reuniting quarterback EJ Manuel with former college teammate Benjamin would be a stroke of genius on the part of the Bills.
42 Tennessee Titans
CB Keith McGill (Utah)
The Titans once again pass on a quarterback (Jake Locker lives to see another day!!), not to mention a franchise running back to replace the departed Chris Johnson. Instead they choose to replace All-Pro corner Alterraun Verner, who is now plying his trade for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 

43 Minnesota Vikings (trade w/New York Giants)
G Gabe Jackson (Mississippi St.)
The Vikings get an extra pick after moving down in the first round. They take the opportunity to address the offensive line and get a much needed upgrade on the inside.

 

44 St. Louis Rams
T Antonio Richardson (Tennessee)
Richardson is a massive tackle that should provide plenty of protection for QB Sam Bradford as well as open up holes for whoever totes the rock for St. Louis. Richardson, Jake Long, & Rodger Saffold would comprise a rather impressive line.

 

45 Detroit Lions
S Deone Bucannon (Washington St.)
The Lions continue to upgrade their secondary. Bucannon should step right into the starting lineup.

 

46 Pittsburgh Steelers
T Billy Turner (North Dakota St.)
There’s a lot of value left on the board at this spot. After addressing some key needs in free agency the Steelers decide to use this pick to add depth to the offensive line, where injuries have been an issue the past couple of seasons.

 

47 Cleveland Browns (trade w/Baltimore Ravens)
CB Lamarcus Joyner (Florida St.)
The Browns have their quarterback and also added an outstanding receiver that should be comfortable in the slot. Now they add a cornerback that will be a nice bookend with All-Pro Joe Haden.

 

48 Dallas Cowboys
S Terrence Brooks (Florida St.)
The secondary has been a significant issue for Dallas for awhile. Brooks should immediately crack the starting lineup.

 

49 New York Jets
NT Louis Nix III
Jets head coach Rex Ryan just might wet himself when he sees Nix available in this spot. Nix plugging the middle with Sheldon Richardson & Muhammed Wilkerson on either side would certainly make a formidable defensive line.

 

50 Miami Dolphins
G Dakota Dozier (Furman)
First round selection Zack Martin can actually slide over to the tackle position opposite free agent signee Branden Albert and Dozier can step into a starting guard slot. Add in starting center Mike Pouncey and all the sudden the Dolphins’ offensive line woes begin to look a bit smaller in the rear view mirror.

 

51 Chicago Bears
DT Timmy Jernigan (Florida St.)
The Bears added free agents Lamarr Houston & Jared Allen on the defensive line, which certainly helps make up for the loss of Julius Peppers & Henry Melton. But adding another piece…especially since Allen is 32 years old…isn’t the worst idea in the world. Jernigan is a first round talent that falls simply because a lot of teams had more pressing needs. He is a steal here.

 

52 Arizona Cardinals
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois)
Garoppolo got peoples’ attention in post-season collegiate all-star games. He has the least amount of pressure of any of the quarterbacks chosen thus far because there is no chance he’ll be the starter in Arizona in 2014 or maybe even the following season. He can spend his first couple of seasons learning from Carson Palmer before taking command when Palmer decides to hang ‘em up.

 

53 Green Bay Packers
TE Austin Jenkins (Washington)
The Packers need to replace Jermichael Finley. Jenkins isn’t quite the freakish athlete that other tight ends like New Orleans’ Jimmie Graham or San Diego’s Antonio Gates are, but at 6ft.6 and 252 lbs. he is an imposing red zone target.

 

54 Philadelphia Eagles
WR Allen Robinson (Penn St.)
DeSean Jackson was released by the Eagles and is now catching balls for the Washington Redskins. The Eagles need a replacement. Robinson has tremendous value at this spot.

 

55 Cincinnati Bengals
CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska)
The Bengals need some youth at the corner position. It doesn’t hurt that the young man is 6ft3.

 

56 San Francisco 49ers (via Kansas City Chiefs)
C Weston Richburg (Colorado St.)
‘Frisco has an outstanding offensive line, but they won’t pass up an opportunity to make it even better.

 

57 San Diego Chargers
CB Marcus Roberson (Florida)
The Chargers have depth at corner but not a lot of big time talent. Roberson should be able to secure a lot of playing time as a rookie and maybe even grab a starting spot.

 

58 New Orleans Saints
WR Donte Moncrief (Ole Miss)
Lance Moore left via free agency and is now a Pittsburgh Steeler. Marques Colston & Robert Meacham are both around 30-ish. Not old by any means, but probably old enough that adding a fresh talent to the mix isn’t a bad idea.

 

59 Indianapolis Colts
WR Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt)
The Colts didn’t have a first round pick so this choice has to have some impact. While it is true that they signed Hakeem Nicks in free agency and have TY Hilton, it is also true that perennial Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne is 35 years old. Matthews is too good to pass up at this spot.

 

60 Arizona Cardinals (trade w/Carolina Panthers)
LB Carl Bradford (Arizona St.)
I’ve been calling the Cardinals the Pittsburgh Steelers of the west for awhile. A lot of former Steelers seem to end up in Arizona. Former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt (now the head coach for the Tennessee Titans) was a former Steelers offensive coordinator. Current Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is a former Steelers offensive coordinator. Cardinals assistant head coach Tom Moore is a former Steelers offensive coordinator. Former Steelers offensive line coach Larry Zierlein is now an assistant line coach in Arizona. Former Steelers defensive tackle Brenston Bucker is now the Cardinals defensive line coach. If you want to go back in time a bit Steelers Hall of Famer Mean Joe Greene spent a season coaching the Cardinals defensive line in 2003. It seems as if The Steeler Way has kind of been transmitted to Arizona thru osmosis, with one of those philosophies being fast athletic linebackers who can get to the quarterback. John Abraham is 36 years old and it is time to fine his successor.
61 San Francisco 49ers
WR Martavis Bryant (Clemson)
The 49ers are up again and this time choose to add to their deep yet prosaic receiving corps. Anquan Boldin is 33 years old and there’s really no one behind him that’d scare defenses at all.

 

62 New England Patriots
DT Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame)
Vince Wilfork is 32 years old. Here is his replacement in a year or two.

 

63 Denver Broncos
WR Jarvis Landry (LSU)
Peyton Manning still has Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, & tight end Julius Thomas to throw to, as well as free agent signee Emmanuel Sanders. But Welker is 33 years old so adding some depth at the position is probably a good call.

 

64 Seattle Seahawks
WR Davante Adams (Fresno St.)
Percy Harvin & Sidney Rice are back for the defending Super Bowl Champions, but there is little else at the position after the departure of Golden Tate. Adams is a suitable replacement for Tate.

 

 

 

Round 3

65 New Orleans Saints (trade w/Houston Texans)
T Jack Mewhort (Ohio St.)
The Saints have to upgrade their offensive line.

 

66 Washington Redskins
S Dion Bailey (USC)
Washington’s secondary is led by DeAngelo Hall, Brandon Meriweather, & free agent signee Ryan Clark, who are all north of 30. A youth movement is in order.

 

67 Oakland Raiders
QB Zach Mettenberger
This might be the biggest steal of the draft. Sure the Raiders have Matt Schaub. But let us not forget that Matt Schaub was about as good a quarterback last season as the one-armed man from The Fugitive. It’d be amazing if Mettenberger dropped this far. At 6ft5 and 224lbs. he has prototypical size. The fact that he is coming off of a torn ACL likely explains his second tier status amongst the quarterbacks.

 

68 Atlanta Falcons
TE Troy Niklas (Notre Dame)
14 time Pro Bowler and surefire future Hall-of-Famer Tony Gonzalez has retired. It’ll be difficult to replace him, but someone has to try.

 

69 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
G David Yankey (Stanford)
Don’t be surprised if the Bucs double down on offensive line depth.

 

70 Jacksonville Jaguars
T Cameron Fleming (Stanford)
Back-to-back Stanford linemen find NFL homes. Fleming and 2013 first round pick Luke Joeckel would form quite the impressive tandem on the Jags offensive line.

 

71 Cleveland Browns
G Cyril Richardson (Baylor)
Richardson is a massive guard that takes the interior of the Browns line from impressive to potentially magnificent.

 

72 Minnesota Vikings
CB Jaylen Watkins (Florida)
Depth in the secondary is important, especially when the Vikings face the Detroit Lions and All Pro Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson twice a year.

 

73 San Francisco 49ers (trade w/Buffalo Bills)
DE Scott Crichton (Oregon St.)
Justin Smith is 34 years old. It’s time to find his successor and the 49ers have enough ammunition to move up and get a who has dropped a bit lower than he had been projected.

 

74 New York Giants
RB Carlos Hyde (Ohio St.)
Is it too soon to give up on 2012 first round pick David Wilson?? Probably. But he just underwent surgery for spinal stenosis so his future is cloudy at best.

 

75 St. Louis Rams
T James Hurst (North Carolina)
Hurst has seen his draft stock plummet after breaking his leg in the 2013 Belk Bowl. However, the Rams can afford to roll the dice even if they have to stash the young man on the PUP list for awhile. He can work his way into a starting spot in a year or two.

 

76 Detroit Lions
C Travis Swanson (Arkansas)
When you have a star quarterback like Matthew Stafford it makes sense to invest in protection for him. Dominic Raiola is 35 years old. The youngster can learn his craft for a year before taking over in 2015.

 

77 Buffalo Bills (trade w/San Francisco 49ers via Tennessee Titans)
LB Telvin Smith (Florida St.)
The Bills don’t necessarily need a linebacker, but the value here is too good to pass up.

 

78 Baltimore Ravens
S Brock Vereen (Minnesota)
Vereen probably has a good chance at cracking the starting lineup and pairing up with safety and 2013 first round pick Matt Elam.

 

79 Dallas Cowboys
DE Marcus Smith (Louisville)
The Cowboys would be thrilled to find Smith still available at this spot. All the sudden the loss of DeMarcus Ware doesn’t seem all that horrible.

 

80 New York Jets
WR Cody Latimer (Indiana)
I don’t know a whole lot about Latimer, but draftniks like Kiper & McShay seem high on him so that’s good enough for me. The Jets need weapons for whomever wins the quarterback battle between Geno Smith & Michael Vick.

 

81 Miami Dolphins
RB Jeremy Hill (LSU)
With their offensive line woes alleviated the Dolphins can now move forward with other pressing concerns. They don’t seem to be enamored with any of Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, or Mike Gillislee. They signed Knowshon Moreno in free agency, but he’s just about as pedestrian as those other guys. Hill has been getting a lot of love from the talking heads and could form a decent 1-2 punch with Moreno.

 

82 Chicago Bears
LB Kyle Van Noy (BYU)
Lance Briggs & DJ Williams are both north of 30. It can’t hurt to add some youth to the linebacking corps.

 

83 Cleveland Browns (via Pittsburgh Steelers)
RB D’Anthony Thomas (Oregon)
Ben Tate will be the every down back in Cleveland, but Thomas adds a dimension to the offense that the Browns have been lacking since…well…always. Imagine being a defensive coordinator and having to prepare for Johnny Manziel AND D’Anthony Thomas.

 

84 Arizona Cardinals
DT Dominique Easley (Florida)
Darnell Dockett is 32 years old. Easley can learn from him before eventually taking his place.

 

85 Green Bay Packers
WR Paul Richardson (Colorado)
James Jones left Green Bay in free agency and is now an Oakland Raider. The Packers won’t miss a beat with this rookie replacement playing alongside mainstays Jordy Nelson & Randall Cobb.

 

86 Philadelphia Eagles
S Ed Reynolds (Stanford)
The Eagles have a need at safety. Problem solved.

 

87 Kansas City Chiefs
QB AJ McCarron (Alabama)
Rumors have been circulating that the Chefs may be in the market for a quarterback. Many believe that Alex Smith played way beyond his talent level in 2013 and are just waiting for him to come crashing to Earth. That may happen. Or he could be a solid starter for the next couple of years and then fade away after a decent decade long career. Either way McCarron is an intriguing addition. He is probably best served by being a reliable backup for 2 or 3 years before being handed the reins.

 

88 Cincinnati Bengals
WR Dri Archer (Kent St.)
The Bengals receiving corps looks rather prosaic when you get past AJ Green. This pick could add a little excitement.

 

89 San Diego Chargers
QB Aaron Murray (Georgia)
The Chargers jump on the quarterback train and get themselves what they hope will be Phillip Rivers’ successor in a few years.

 

90 Indianapolis Colts
C Marcus Martin (USC)
With a valuable commodity like Andrew Luck offensive line depth is an enormous consideration.

 

91 New Orleans Saints
LB Chris Borland (Wisconsin)
The talking heads have been giving some love to Borland. I’ve heard him compared to Zach Thomas & Chris Spielman, which in my mind means that what he may lack in natural athleticism he makes up for with solid work ethic, and it’s never a bad thing to have a guy like that on your team.

 

92 Carolina Panthers
WR Devin Street (Pitt)
Right now Jerricho Cotchery & Jason Avant are the starting wideouts for the Panthers. That may get you thru the season, but adding another receiver is essential. Street is probably a bit of a reach at this spot but Carolina has no choice.

 

93 New England Patriots
T Michael Schofield (Michigan)
Tom Brady might have 3 or 4 more years left to grab one more Lombardi Trophy, but if that is to happen offensive line depth is of the utmost importance.

 

94 Buffalo Bills (trade w/San Francisco 49ers)
TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa)
Personally I am a big fan of Bills tight end Scott Chandler, another Iowa Hawkeye. I think he’s a decent red zone target. However, he only caught 2 touchdowns in 2013, which was down from 6 in 2012 and why a lot of folks seem to think that the Bills need an upgrade. A two tight end package could become an effective weapon for Buffalo.
95 Denver Broncos
CB Pierre Desir (Lindenwood)
For anyone that may be curious Lindenwood is a Division II school in Missouri. The Broncos need to some depth in the secondary and I like cornerbacks that are 6 foot +.

 

96 Minnesota Vikings (via Seattle Seahawks)
RB Charles Sims (West Virginia)
A few things. First of all backup running back Toby Gerhart fled Minnesota and grabbed the opportunity to become the feature back in Jacksonville. One can hardly blame him. Secondly All-Universe RB Adrian Peterson is 29 years old and has an injury history. Having a solid backup is crucial for the Vikings. And while Peterson is pretty much a straight ahead bulldozer Sims specializes in catching the ball out of the backfield, which will be a nice option for whomever is behind center in Minnesota.

 

97 Pittsburgh Steelers (compensatory pick)
WR Brandon Coleman (Rutgers)
The Steelers offset losses to the receiving corps with a couple of free agent signings, but that doesn’t mean they won’t add another piece in the draft. Coleman is the type of big body that Ben Roethlisberger has coveted for years. He’s raw and may need a year or two to develop, but the upside is there.

 

98 Green Bay Packers (compensatory pick)
LB Christian Jones (Florida St.)
Newly signed linebacker Julius Peppers is 34 years old, so even with the presence of AJ Hawk & Clay Matthews it wouldn’t hurt to have one eye on the future and add some depth.

 

99 Baltimore Ravens (compensatory pick)
WR L’Damian Washington (Missouri)
Steve Smith came to Baltimore from the Carolina Panthers this offseason, but he is 35 years old. The Ravens need to add a big body to complement speedster Torrey Smith. Joe Flacco seemed like a lot better quarterback a couple of years ago when he had Anquan Boldin as a security blanket.

 

100 San Francisco 49ers (compensatory pick)
LB Shane Skov (Stanford)
We all witnessed the horrific knee injury to linebacker Navorro Bowman in the NFC Championship. I’m not sure where he stands in the recovery process, but I think it is unlikely that he’d be able to play at a high level in 2014…if at all. The Niners need to find a replacement.

My First Ever NFL Mock Draft (2014)

I have pondered the idea of doing a mock NFL draft for a few years now, but there have been some things stopping me. I am by no means an “expert” who pores over tape or scouting reports like a Mel Kiper Jr. or Mike Mayock. I’m not an “insider” with a plethora of contacts within the NFL like Chris Mortensen or John Clayton. I’m just a normal, average, run-of-the-mill fan who just happens to have an nfloutlet thru which I can pontificate about things that interest me. I don’t know who half of these players even are…I have gathered a lot of information from various sources and just have to trust their assessment. I do watch a lot of college football, but I learned long ago that there isn’t always as much crossover as one would assume there’d be between talented collegiate players and good pro prospects. There are always college football stars that are deemed to be too small, too slow, or unathletic enough for the NFL. Conversely, there are a lot of guys who make an impact in the NFL that few fans ever heard about in college. There are a numerous mock drafts available, so why add to the pile??

 

Despite these reservations I finally decided to forge ahead. The first thing I elected to do was make this a 3 round mock draft. Any yahoo can do a one round draft…I want a challenge!! The second thing I knew I wanted to do was throw in some trades. As my fantasy football pals know I love wheelin’ & dealin’. Sadly there isn’t enough of that that actually happens in the real draft. I do know football-introducing-the-science_1that they have a conversion chart that tells the suits what equals out to a fair exchange, but since I don’t have access to that and only have three rounds to work with I just do the best I can. If you see “via X Team” it indicates that is a real pre-existing trade. When you see “trade w/X Team” that means it is a trade that I am creating for this draft. It must be noted that we are almost three months away from the actual draft and a lot of things will occur in that time, especially when free agency begins next month. There will probably be a lot of opinions changed…one way or another…about certain prospects during the NFL Combine later this month. Some well-known names will become salary cap casualties. I may do a revised mock draft a week or two before the real thing, but I’m not making any promises. In the meantime, for those of you nerdy enough to enjoy this stuff as much as I do please peruse my selections and don’t hesitate to leave feedback.

***************

Round 1

1              Cleveland Browns (trade w/Houston Texans)Cleveland_Browns_Helmet

            QB Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)                            

The Browns move up to get the quarterback that they covet. The move makes sense.

2              Houston Texans (via Washington Redskins & trade w/St. Louis Rams)houston-texans-mobile-wallpaper

            QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)

In this scenario the Texans move down and then move back up, securing not only an extra pick but the player they really wanted all along anyway.

3              Atlanta Falcons (trade w/Jacksonville Jaguars)falcons

            DE Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina)

The Jags move down knowing they can get who they want a few picks later plus add another draft choice. The Falcons leapfrog a couple of other teams to make sure they get Clowney. It’s a win-win for both teams.

4              St. Louis Rams (trade w/Houston Texans)St_Louis_Rams

            WR Sammy Watkins (Clemson)

The Rams are tempted to take an offensive lineman, but this draft is deep at that position and there’s really no one that is transcendent at the top. However, Watkins does stand far & above any other receiver.

5              Minnesota Vikings (trade w/Oakland Raiders)vikingshelmet1

            QB Blake Bortles (Central Florida)

The Vikings are desperate for a quarterback. The Raiders figure they can find one in the second round plus add a couple of picks. Only time will tell who was smarter.

6              Jacksonville Jaguars (trade w/Atlanta Falcons)Jacksonville_Jaguars

            DE Kony Ealy (Missouri)

‘Tis a tough position for the Jags. They miss out on both Clowney and Bortles. There is a huge temptation to reach for a quarterback, but that’s not the smart move. A good pass rusher is always a decent fallback option.

7              Tampa Bay BuccaneersTampa_Bay_Buccaneers_Helmet

            OT Greg Robinson (Auburn)

The Bucs won’t walk…they’ll run to the podium to make this choice.

8              Oakland Raiders (trade w/Minnesota Vikings)raiders

            OT Jake Matthews (Texas A&M)

Yes the Raiders need a quarterback. But there’s no one in this spot that’d be a good value. Matthews being available at #8 would be a shocker and few teams will ever pass up a cornerstone left tackle.

9              Buffalo BillsBuffalo_Bills_Helmet

            LB Khalil Mack (Buffalo)

If Mack, who played collegiately for the Buffalo Bulls, was hoping to escape the frigid northeast for a warmer climate he’ll be disappointed…but he’ll be rich.

10           Detroit LionsDetroit_Lions_Helmet

           CB Darqueze Dennard (Michigan St.)

The Lions defensive backfield was atrocious last season, and the Seattle Seahawks have proven how important a great secondary can be.

11           Tennessee TitansTennessee_Titans_Helmet

         S Calvin Pryor (Louisville)

The Titans are very very tempted to snag a quarterback, but maybe the Jake Locker era isn’t over just yet. Instead they address another need area by upgrading their secondary.

12           New York GiantsGiants Logo

           LB Anthony Barr (UCLA)

Some early mock drafts had Barr as a Top 5 pick. The G-Men would be ecstatic to find such value at this spot.

13           St. Louis RamsSt_Louis_Rams

        OT Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama)

With their first pick the Rams added a top flight receiver. With their second 1st round choice they add some protection for quarterback Sam Bradford. Not a bad day’s work.

14           Chicago Bearschicago-bears-logo13

          S Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama)

Ridiculous name aside, this is a pick that addresses an area of need for the Bears without reaching for an offensive lineman that wouldn’t be as good of a value here.

15           Pittsburgh Steelersdiamond-steelers

            CB Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma St.)

The Steelers’ secondary hasn’t been all that great for a few years in my opinion, and they’re getting old. This pick addresses a huge problem and injects some much needed youth into the defense.

16           Baltimore Ravens Baltimore_Ravens2

           WR Mike Evans (Texas A&M)

What was the difference between the Super Bowl Champion Ravens of 2012 and the non-playoff Ravens of 2013?? Some say one key change was the loss of receiver Anquan Boldin who was traded to the 49ers. Evans would solve the problem.

17           Dallas Cowboysdallas-cowboys-logo2

           DE Dee Ford (Auburn)

As much flack as quarterback Tony Romo and head coach Jason Garrett receive the fact is that the biggest reason the Cowboys continue to be a disappointment (besides their meddling owner Jerry Jones) is their porous defense. Ideally they’d trade out of this spot as the value at the secondary positions is later in this round or in the 2nd & 3rd rounds, but they have trouble finding a taker and therefore reach just a little for the best defensive end available.

18           New York JetsJets-Pin-Pro

           WR Kelvin Benjamin (Florida St.)

The Jets need offensive playmakers…plain & simple. Geno Smith can be an effective NFL quarterback, but he needs better options than what he had in 2013.

19           Miami Dolphins                Miami_Dolphins_Helmet

         OT Taylor Lewan (Michigan)

The Dolphins really need a workhorse running back, but since they seem to be devalued these days I doubt if they’d choose one with a mid-first round pick. Instead they solidify their offensive line with someone who hopefully won’t find themselves in the midst of an idiotic bullying scandal.

20           Arizona Cardinalsnflarizonacardinals

          OT Zack Martin (Notre Dame)

I think the Cards can squeeze another year or two out of Carson Palmer, so there’s no need to reach for a quarterback just yet.

21           Green Bay PackersGreen_Bay_Packers_Helmet

         TE Eric Ebron (North Carolina)

The Packers were a playoff team and I think they’ll be even better in 2014, so they don’t have any major needs. They could use an upgrade at cornerback but anyone taken here would be a reach, so instead they replace tight end Jermichael Finlay. Finlay’s 2013 season ended at the halfway point with an injury that required spinal fusion surgery. He’s only 26 years old, but he’s also a free agent so the prudent thing to do…especially since quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a plethora of weapons at his disposal anyway…is find a healthier & less expensive alternative.

22           Philadelphia Eagleseagles

           LB CJ Moseley (Alabama)

Head coach Chip Kelly is an offensive guru, but if he really wants to take his team to the top he needs to pay attention to the defense. Moseley is a well-rounded player with tremendous leadership skills.

23           Kansas City Chiefskc-chiefs-logo

         LB Ryan Shazier (Ohio St.)

The Chiefs were the NFL’s most improved team in 2013, but something was lacking. After starting the season 9-0 they finished 2-5 and lost a close one to the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs. The popular sentiment is that they’d like to add a big time receiver for quarterback Alex Smith to target, but I think that the Seattle Seahawks provided the blueprint for defeating the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl…defense, defense, & more defense.

24           Cincinnati BengalsCincinnati_Bengals_Helmet

         CB Jason Verrett (TCU)

The Bengals are a solid playoff team so they can afford to reach just a little to solidify their secondary.

25           San Diego ChargersSan_Diego_Chargers_Helmet3

         G David Yankey (Stanford)

The Chargers flew under the radar in 2013 and right into the playoffs. Time may be running out for quarterback Philip Rivers to fulfill the potential so many thought he had when drafted a decade ago. The best way to maximize his abilities is to keep him upright and give him time to find a receiver downfield.

26           Houston Texans (via Indianapolis Colts & trade w/Cleveland Browns)houston-texans-mobile-wallpaper

           OT Morgan Moses (Virginia)

The Texans get this pick for moving down in the first round and allowing the Browns to draft Johnny Football. Of course they then moved back up and got their quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. So now what?? Well, when you’ve got a big time signal caller the first thing you want to do is protect him.

27           New Orleans Saints10_new_orleans_saints

       OT Antonio Richardson (Tennessee)

The pickins’ are getting slim at the tackle position, but the Saints can afford to roll the dice in an effort to protect Drew Brees.

28           Carolina Pantherscarolina_panthers_logo-14336

         WR Marqise Lee (USC)

I believe that the Panthers are one of the favorites to get to the Super Bowl next season. They’ll have to get past the Seattle Seahawks at some point to get there, and a top flight receiver would help a lot. Steve Smith is 34 years old.

29           New England PatriotsNew_England_Patriots_Helmet

          TE Jace Amaro (Texas Tech)

The Patriots will be heartbroken to see all of the top receivers…Watkins, Evans, Benjamin, & Lee…off the board. But we know they have several options in the playbook for a solid tight end that can catch the ball.

30           San Francisco 49ersSan-Francisco-49ers

         DT Aaron Donald (Pitt)

Most folks seem convinced that ‘Frisco will be right back in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy in 2014. I’m not so sure. This is a team that is getting older at some key spots and they need to address the issue before it becomes a problem. Receiver Anquan Boldin is 33 years old, but I think that position can be dealt with later. For now the prudent idea might be to take the best defensive player on the board.

31           Denver Broncosbroncos-4759

         CB Marcus Roberson (Florida)

The Broncos looked old & slow in the Super Bowl. It was kind of sad. They need to get younger & faster really quickly if they want a chance to get Peyton Manning another ring.

32           Seattle Seahawks            seattle-seahawks1

         WR Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU)

What can you possibly get the team that seemingly has everything?? Well, I’m going to say another weapon for quarterback Russell Wilson.

*********

Round 2

 

33           St. Louis Rams (trade w/Houston Texans)

         G Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA)

The Rams get this pick after trading down with the Texans earlier. This is the third pick for them and they’ve already added a legit #1 receiver and a solid offensive tackle. Depth on the offensive line is always great to have though.

34           Washington Redskins

          DT Timmy Jernigan (Florida St.)

The Redskins didn’t have a first round pick due to the trade that snagged them quarterback RGIII a couple of years ago. They still end up getting first round talent though, and improve their defense in the process.

35           Cleveland Browns

          RB Ka’Deem Carey (Arizona)

Either Trent Richardson wasn’t the answer at running back or the Browns gave up on him too quickly. Either way they need a replacement, because if they go into 2014 with 32 year old Willis McGahee & Fozzy Whittaker as  their starters they are screwed.

36           Oakland Raiders

         QB Derek Carr (Fresno St.)

Patience pays off for Oakland. Truthfully Carr shouldn’t drop this far, but there is some trepidation since he is the younger brother of former #1 overall pick David Carr, who was a huge bust coming out of Fresno St. in 2002. Fair?? Probably not, but the comparisons are inevitable.

37           Jacksonville Jaguars (trade w/Atlanta Falcons)

           G Cyril Richardson (Baylor)

At this point one has to feel some semblance of sympathy for the Jags. They traded down in the first round but it seemed like they could snag Carr early in the second. Oops. Fortunately there are a few more decent quarterback prospects available…but not here. Instead they add depth to the offensive line.

38           Tampa Bay Buccaneers

           LB Vic Beasley (Clemson)

The Bucs addressed offensive line issues in the first round. This time they reach just a bit for a pass rusher.

39           Jacksonville Jaguars

           DT Louis Nix III (Notre Dame)

The Jags are up again?? They go defense again and get great value with a huge defensive tackle.

40           Minnesota Vikings

           WR Allen Robinson (Penn St.)

Minnesota got their quarterback in the first round, so now it is time to get him some weapons. Adrian Peterson can’t do it all.

41           Buffalo Bills

          TE Austin Jenkins (Washington)

Any quarterback…especially a young guy like EJ Manuel…benefits from a solid tight end that can catch the ball. Adding Jenkins with the already decent Scott Chandler could give the Bills a unique tandem that’d be the envy of the league.

42           Tennessee Titans

          WR Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt)

Matthews provides an upgrade over aging Nate Washington and oft injured troublemaker Kenny Britt, who some team will likely overpay in free agency.

43           New York Giants

          S Terrence Brooks (Florida St.)

The Giants continue to upgrade their defense by adding some speed to the secondary. Brooks could play cornerback in a pinch as well, and that kind of flexibility is a good thing in the NFL.

44           St. Louis Rams

          DT RaShede Hageman (Minnesota)

The Rams have their fourth pick of the draft and add some depth on defense this time.

45           Detroit Lions

          CB Bradley Roby (Ohio St.)

Did I mention that Detroit’s secondary was really bad last year?? Taking two corners with their first two picks might seem a bit out-of-the-box, but if it works then why not??

46           Pittsburgh Steelers

           G Gabe Jackson (Mississippi St.)

My Steelers addressed the secondary with their first pick, so now it is time to begin rebuilding the offensive line. The top echelon of tackles were all taken in the first round, but I like the idea of pairing Jackson with David DeCastro on the interior of the line with center Maurkice Pouncey in the middle.

47           Baltimore Ravens

          OT Jack Mewhort (Ohio St.)

The Ravens got the big wide receiver they needed in the first round, and now they will look to solidify the offensive line. They are likely to lose atleast one significant lineman in free agency, so a replacement is necessary.

48           Dallas Cowboys

          S Ed Reynolds (Stanford)

Dallas must redo their secondary. It’s just that simple.

49           New York Jets

          RB Tre Mason (Auburn)

Neither Bilal Powell nor Chris Ivory are feature back material. The powers-that-be in The Big Apple have a few good choices here, but I’m guessing they’ll fall in love with Mason’s speed & versatility.

50           Miami Dolphins

         RB Carlos Hyde (Ohio St.)

The Dolphins get their workhorse back. Adios Lamar Miller & Daniel Thomas!!

51           Chicago Bears

          S Deone Bucannon (Washington St.)

The Seattle Seahawks showed us the blueprint for success…a big, physical secondary. The Bears have been paying attention.

52           Arizona Cardinals

           LB Kyle Van Noy (BYU)

The defensive braintrust in Arizona loves linebackers who can get after the quarterback. With John Abraham turning 35 it is time to turn the page.

53           Green Bay Packers

           CB Lamarcus Joyner (Florida St.)

After finding a replacement for Jermichael Finlay in the first round the Packers will look to add secondary depth here.

54           Philadelphia Eagles

            CB Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech)

The Eagles continue to fortify the defense by adding a piece to the secondary.

55           Cincinnati Bengals

           S Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois)

Cincy adds more depth to the secondary. That’s where the value is in this draft.

56           San Francisco 49ers (via Kansas City Chiefs)

          WR Davante Adams (Fresno St.)

This pick belongs to the 49ers due to the trade that sent QB Alex Smith from ‘Frisco to KC last year. Adams can learn for a year under Anquan Boldin before taking his job.

57           San Diego Chargers

           LB Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech)

San Diego’s defense is young but that doesn’t mean the pass rush can’t be improved.

58           New Orleans Saints

          LB Trevor Reilly (Utah)

At this point the linebacker group starts to look a bit thin, so the Saints grab one while they can.

59           Indianapolis Colts

           OT Joel Bitonio (Nevada)

The Colts didn’t have a first round choice due to trading it to Cleveland for RB Trent Richardson. If that trade stands any chance of working out in the long run Indianapolis has to spend this pick on an offensive line upgrade.

60           Carolina Panthers

           DT Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame)

The Panthers add depth on the defensive line.

61           San Francisco 49ers

           DT Trent Murphy (Stanford)

The 49ers have already addressed their defensive line and picked up some depth at receiver. They are in a unique position to take the best player available, which just so happens to add more depth on the defensive line as well.

62           New England Patriots

          DE Scott Crichton (Oregon St.)

The Pats add youth & athleticism to the defensive line.

63           Denver Broncos

          G Dakota Dozier (Furman)

Denver added a much needed younger piece to the defensive backfield in the first round…now they address the offense. Peyton Manning was never that fleet of foot, but at his advanced age protection becomes even more of a priority. Offensive line depth is crucial to another Super Bowl run. Dozier can play both guard & tackle, which makes him a versatile and valuable asset.

64           Seattle Seahawks

           DE Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas)

Do the Seahawks really need an upgrade on defense?? No, not really. But Jeffcoat is the best player available and Chris Clemons is 32 years old.

**********

Round 3

65           Houston Texans

            CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska)

The Texans give some attention to the defense by adding some size to the secondary.

66           Washington Redskins

           LB Christian Jones (Florida St.)

Brian Orakpo is a free agent and the ageless London Fletcher finally retiring…I think. Linebacker is a significant need.

67           Oakland Raiders

           WR Brandin Cooks (Oregon St.)

The diminutive Cooks might not be the #1 wideout the Raiders really covet, but he could be a tremendous slot receiver in the vein of a Wes Welker. That can be a valuable asset in today’s NFL.

68           Atlanta Falcons

          RB Charles Sims (West Virginia)

Steven Jackson will turn 31 this summer. His days as a #1 back are over. The Falcons must move forward.

69           Tampa Bay Buccaneers

          TE Troy Niklas (Notre Dame)

Mel Kiper & Adam Shefter will probably use the word “upside” a hundred times when talking about Niklas. He only started one year at Notre Dame, but at 6ft.7 270lbs. the former linebacker has size & athleticism and could find himself starting fairly early in his career.

70           Jacksonville Jaguars

           QB AJ McCarron (Alabama)

Don’t be surprised if the Jags also try to trade for a young veteran signal caller like Kirk Cousins or Ryan Mallet or sign a stop gap like Michael Vick, Josh Freeman, or Matt Cassel.

71           Cleveland Browns

          G Brandon Thomas (Clemson)

After taking care of major issues at QB & RB the Browns now move to solidify an offensive line that is already decent but could be better.

72           Oakland Raiders (trade w/Minnesota Vikings)

          S Dion Bailey (USC)

The Raiders have this pick after moving down in the first round, a trade which allowed the Vikings to snag quarterback Blake Bortles. Oakland has to get younger in their secondary. Former Heisman winner Charles Woodson is 37 years old.

73           Buffalo Bills

           OT Ju’Wuan James (Tennessee)

A team can never have enough offensive line depth.

74           New York Giants

         RB Bishop Sankey (Washington)

Is it too soon to give up on 2012 first round pick David Wilson?? Probably. But he just underwent surgery for spinal stenosis so his future is cloudy at best.

75           St. Louis Rams

          S Ty Zimmerman (Kansas St.)

The Rams have had a great draft thus far, adding a big time receiver and significant help on both lines. Now they add some depth to the secondary.

76           Detroit Lions

           C Travis Swanson (Arkansas)

Detroit just re-signed center Dominic Raiola for another year, but he is 35 years old and it’s time to look toward the future. Raiola can mentor Swanson for one season before passing the torch.

77           San Francisco 49ers (via Tennessee Titans)

           CB Loucheiz Purifoy (Florida)

The 49ers are likely to suffer some losses in the secondary via free agency, so they take the opportunity to replenish.

78           Baltimore Ravens

          C Marcus Martin (USC)

The Ravens offensive line was an issue last season. Upgrades are needed because when a team has a good running back like Ray Rice it is crucial to be able to take advantage of his talent by opening up holes for him to run thru.

79           Dallas Cowboys

          CB Terrance Mitchell (Oregon)

The Cowboys continue to look for answers to solve their defensive backfield issues.

80           New York Jets

          LB Shayne Skov (Stanford)

Starting linebacker Calvin Pace is 33 years old. The Jets need to find some youth at the position.

81           Miami Dolphins

         WR Paul Richardson (Colorado)

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill needs more weapons. Mike Wallace & Brian Hartline ain’t gonna cut it.

82           Chicago Bears

          DT Will Sutton (Arizona St.)

The Bears add some much needed depth on the defensive line.

83           Cleveland Browns (via Pittsburgh Steelers)

           CB Keith McGill (Utah)

Cleveland takes the opportunity to upgrade the corner opposite All-Pro Joe Haden.

84           Arizona Cardinals

          QB Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois)

The young signal caller from Eastern Illinois (alma mater of fellow quarterback Tony Romo) was impressive in a couple of post-season all-star games. This is a good situation for him as he can sit for a year or two and learn the ropes from Carson Palmer.

85           Green Bay Packers

          NT DaQuan Jones (Penn St.)

Free agent BJ Raji is likely headed out of Green Bay, so they need a replacement.

86           Philadelphia Eagles

           RB De’Anthony Thomas (Oregon)

Thomas is an interesting prospect. He’s not an every down running back and he’s not quite a wide receiver. He’s a situational player with blazing speed. Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly coached Thomas at Oregon and has to be salivating at the thought of being able to utilize his unique skillset in the NFL. If anyone should know how to best use Thomas it’s Coach Kelly.

87           Kansas City Chiefs

          WR Donte Moncrief (Mississippi)

Kansas City grabs an underrated prospect who can be a nice complement to Dwayne Bowe.

88           Cincinnati Bengals

         LB Telvin Smith (Florida St.)

James Harrison is 35 years old. He won’t last forever.

89           San Diego Chargers

          DT Dominique Easley (Florida)

Easley is coming off an ACL injury (his 2nd since 2010) and probably should have stayed for his senior year at Florida. The Chargers are very young along the defensive line and can afford to be patient.

90           Indianapolis Colts

           G Anthony Steen (Alabama)

The Colts continue to upgrade their offensive line. Quarterback Andrew Luck must be protected and a running game has to be established.

91           New Orleans Saints

           CB Jaylen Watkins (Florida)

N’awlins adds some depth to the secondary.

92           Carolina Panthers

         G Brandon Linder (Miami, FL)

This is probably a bit of a reach, but Carolina can afford to be a bit cheeky. Protecting Cam Newton is essential so it’s worth a gamble.

93           New England Patriots

           DE Will Clarke (West Virginia)

Clarke is another guy who really helped himself in post-season all-star games. This isn’t necessarily an area of need for New England, but Belichick will figure out how to fit Clarke into the rotation.

94           San Francisco 49ers

      C Weston Richburg (Colorado St.)

Starting center Jonathan Goodwin is 35 years old. Time to get some new blood to go with the rest of the young & talented offensive line.

95           Denver Broncos

          QB Zach Mettenberger (LSU)

I don’t think that Brock Osweiler or Zac Dysert are worthy candidates to eventually replace Peyton Manning. As much as the Broncos want to get Manning that second ring the fact is that the powers-that-be have to have one eye on the future and Mettenberger, who is currently recovering from a torn ACL, can “redshirt” for a year before possibly being in a position to gently push Manning into retirement.

96           Oakland Raiders (trade w/Minnesota Vikings via Seattle Seahawks)

           S Ahmad Dixon (Baylor)

Minnesota had this pick due to the trade that sent Percy Harvin to Seattle in 2013. They then gave it to the Raiders in order to jump up in the first round. The Raiders have added a QB, slot receiver, & cornerstone tackle already. They also added some young, fresh legs to the secondary and do so again here.

2013 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 2

I am a day or two later on these picks than I intended to be but it’s all good. I knew we weren’t picking any Thursday night or even Friday games so as long as we do what needs to be done by Friday night we’re all set. The season didn’t get off to as great a start as I’d hoped last week, as I went 2-3 and Zach went 3-2. LSU & Oklahoma St. took care of business, while Nevada & Boise St. did not. I really didn’t see that Boise St. loss coming. And in the big game…the one contest that Zach & I split on…he came out ahead as Clemson beat Georgia. This week the NFL starts which adds a whole new layer of intrigue because there’s always a couple of surprise teams on both ends of the spectrum.

 

South Carolina                  at            Georgia (-3)

georgiaI don’t usually like to pick games involving teams that just appeared here last week, but this one is just too good to pass up. The Gamecocks took care of business last week, though the victory wasn’t quite as impressive as I would have thought it’d be. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs came up short at Clemson. The point spread is interesting and tells me two things. First is of course the all-important home field advantage. But secondly it says to me that there are others beside myself that weren’t all that overwhelmed by South Carolina’s ho-hum win over North Carolina. I’m a little bit torn on this one because I pegged South Carolina as a Top 5 team in my pre-season poll, but I had Georgia at #11 andGamecocks if they start the season 0-2 they are pretty much done, especially with games against LSU and Florida still remaining. For the second week in a row I am going with Georgia, simply because going 0-2 would be catastrophic. And for the second week in a row Zach is going in the other direction. He isn’t impressed with Georgia QB Aaron Murray and feels as though he caves under pressure. He is somewhat concerned with South Carolina’s endurance but thinks that Jadeveon Clowney will get 3 sacks en route to a close Gamecocks victory.

My Pick:                               Georgia              

Z’s Pick:                                South Carolina

***********************************************************

Notre Dame                       at            Michigan (-3.5)

The Fighting Irish & the Wolverines both began their season like so many others…beating up on a team far beneath their skill level, meaning we don’t know much more aboutmichigan-wolverines-fan-gear them than we did a week ago. The spread tells us nothing either other than Michigan is getting a slight home field advantage. However, maybe that advantage isn’t so slight. Coach Brady Hoke is now 15-0 at The Big House. That’s good enough for me. Zach agrees but in all honestly he’s a huge Michigan fan and is picking with his heart.

My Pick:                               Michigan              

Z’s Pick:                                Michigan

**********************************************************

Cincinnati                            at            Chicago (-3)

Our first NFL pick of 2013 and it’s a dandy. Both teams are coming off of a 10-6 season last year. In Cincinnati that was cause for an optimistic outlook for the future. In Cincinnati_Bengals_HelmetChicago it was a reason to fire the coach. In retrospect those may have been appropriate reactions. I think the Bengals are moving forward while I am predicting the Bears to take a nominal step back this season. Zach…a fellow Steelers fan…looks for the Bengals to dominate the AFC North, isn’t a believer in Bears QB Jay Cutler, and thinks Cincinnati wins this game easily. I concur.

My Pick:                               Cincinnati              

Z’s Pick:                                Cincinnati

*********************************************************

Atlanta                                 at            New Orleans (-3)

new_orleans_saints-3737What a great game to start the season!! A lot of pundits are picking the Falcons to have another great year and finally take that last step toward The falconsSuper Bowl. In my pre-season prognostications I predicted that the Saints would win the division and the Falcons would settle for a wildcard. This game will be a huge indicator as to whether or not I am a genius or an idiot. Conversely, Zach is all in on the Falcons and isn’t buying that the Saints are back just because head coach Sean Payton has returned to the sidelines. He thinks Falcons QB Matt Ryan will have a big game and RB Steven Jackson will be a difference maker.

My Pick:                               New Orleans              

Z’s Pick:                                Atlanta

**********************************************************

Green Bay                           at            San Francisco (-5)           

Let’s hop in the ol’ DeLorean and go back in time just a bit. On Saturday January 12, 2013 the Packers traveled to ‘Frisco for a big playoff game. It was a tremendous battle,San-Francisco-49ers but in the end the 49ers gained a solid 45-31 victory and eventually made it to The Super Bowl. The question one must ask is “Has anything changed in the past 8 months??” Well…yes…but not a whole lot. Green Bay drafted stud running back Eddie Lacy so now they have a rushing attack. And San Francisco added WR Anquan Boldin to offset the loss of Michael Crabtree due to an achille’s tendon injury. One thing to remember about that playoff game is that it was QB Colin Kaepernick’s first post-season game and he did pretty darn well…he set the NFL single game record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 181. I feel rather confident in saying that he won’t do that again, but still think San Francisco pulls this game out and covers the points. Zach believes that the 49ers have more weapons and thinks Kaepernick’s legs will be the difference.

My Pick:                               San Francisco              

Z’s Pick:                                San Francisco

********************************************************

2013 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

football_goalIt’s been a weird summer. Temperatures here in West Virginia seemingly hovered in the 70’s much of the past few months and it has College-Football-Maprained every other day. The kids started back to school in mid-August so we’ve kind of been in autumn mode already. So be it. Fall means football and football has always been my favorite season, although to be honest I feel that changing ever-so-slightly. Watching NFL pre-season games has been an exercise in frustration the past two weeks for reasons that I’ll explain when we do the NFL preview soon. For now it is enough to say that I am glad that Roger Goodell hasn’t yet figured out a way to seize power of the NCAA and ruin the collegiate game the way he is bastardizing the pro game. Anyway, as always I must remind my dear citizens of The Manoverse that I do not encourage wagering and I am not really all that good at this so please don’t head to Vegas and risk your kids’ college fund on these predictions.

 

 

 

1              Oregon

Last Season:       12-1

Key Game:          10/26 vs. UCLA

The biggest loss the Ducks suffered after a stellar 2012 season was their head coach Chip Kelly to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. Usually that’d be enough to dissuade Oregon-Ducksme from picking a team anywhere close to this high. However, my vibe is that new coach Mark Helfrich…the former offensive coordinator…will keep this train rolling forward just fine. Oregon has played in a big January bowl game the past 4 years and I believe they have a great chance to outlast the always stiff competition in the Pac 12 to make what will be the final BCS title game on January 6, 2014.

 

 

2              Ohio State

Last Season:       12-0

Key Games:        9/28 vs. Wisconsin, 11/30 at Michigan

The Buckeyes went undefeated last season but it didn’t matter because they were on probation and weren’t allowed to play in the post-season. With all of that osucraziness now in the rear view mirror head coach Urban Meyer can now get down to business. Is junior QB Braxton Miller the real deal?? Most people seem to think so. I see no reason why Ohio St. shouldn’t easily roll thru the early part of their schedule until running into Wisconsin…and that game will be in the friendly confines of The Horseshoe in Columbus. Whether or not the season ends in Pasadena on January 6th could very well be determined at the end of November when the Buckeyes travel to The Big House to face the Michigan Wolverines.

 

 

3              Alabama

Last Season:       13-1

Key Games:        9/14 at Texas A&M, 11/9 vs. LSU

The Tide has won back-to-back national titles and 3 out of the last 4. Most pre-season polls have them ranked #1. But since A) I am a non-conformist and B) I just AlabamaCrimsonTide2think the SEC is too tough to assume that anyone can go undefeated I can’t quite pull the trigger on ranking ‘Bama #1. Having said that a quick glance at their schedule doesn’t really raise any eyebrows. At this point who knows if Texas A&M will even have their Heisman winning, autograph signing, NCAA rules violating QB Johnny Manziel, and even if they do one has to logically believe that Alabama will be geared up to avenge last year’s 29-24 loss to the Aggies. Can LSU go into Tuscaloosa and pull off a November surprise?? Possibly. Or maybe the only thing standing between ‘Bama and yet another trip to the national title game is whoever they face in the SEC Championship game…likely either Georgia, Florida, or South Carolina. But one loss might be all it takes this year to knock the defending champs out of contention…and I am guessing some team will do just that at some point in 2013.

 

 

4              Texas

Last Season:       9-4

Key Games:        9/7 at BYU, 10/12 vs. Oklahoma, 11/16 vs. Oklahoma St.

After nine straight seasons of 10 or more victories the past three seasons have been somewhat…lean…in Austin. It seems odd that a 9-4 record in 2012 would be texasconsidered disappointing (especially after going 5-7 just two years earlier), but that’s just how these elite teams roll. I think the Longhorns are finally primed to re-ascend to the top of The Big 12 and possibly contend for a national championship. The conference is solid but not all that spectacular with only two other legit contenders for the crown. Texas has both of those games…against Oklahoma & Oklahoma St…at home. An early season contest in Provo against BYU might be interesting.

 

 

5              South Carolina

Last Season:       11-2

Key Games:        9/7 at Georgia, 11/16 vs. Florida, 11/30 vs. Clemson

The Gamecocks have a very good defensive end that you may have heard of named Jadeveon Clowney. Now I don’t know whether or not he’ll live up to the hype in Gamecocksthe NFL, but the fact that he’s seen as a combination of Lawrence Taylor & Reggie White makes him a singular collegiate talent…even in the elite SEC. An early season contest in Athens against the Bulldogs might go a long way in deciding the SEC East and become a significant factor in determining who will face Alabama for the conference championship. An in-state rivalry game against the ACC’s Clemson Tigers isn’t likely to decide anything except poll position and bowl placement but since those are kind of a big deal it’ll be a fun game to watch.

 

 

6              Louisville

Last Season:       11-2

Key Games:        12/5 at Cincinnati

The Big East is gone, replaced by the American Athletic Conference. Either way it’s a last hurrah and most likely the last time anyone outside of the top teams in the Louisville_Cardinalspower conferences (SEC, ACC, Big 12, Pac 12, Big 10…oh…and Notre Dame) will have the opportunity to sniff a top tier bowl unless they buy a ticket. Not that it matters to the Cardinals since they are heading to the ACC in 2014 anyway. Fortunately for Louisville they just happen to have a junior QB who’s also a projected 1st round NFL talent. Serendipity indeed. Because of their current conference affiliation and the perceived lack of respect for it I believe that the Cardinals will have to go undefeated to finish this high in the rankings even if they can still go to a BCS bowl just by winning the conference, and I think they have a really good shot at doing just that.

 

 

7              Michigan

Last Season:       8-5

Key Games:        9/7 vs. Notre Dame, 11/2 at Michigan St., 11/9 vs. Nebraska, 11/30 vs. Ohio St.

Coach Brady Hoke is 19-7 in his first two seasons in Ann Arbor…but he is 14-0 at home. That bodes well for home contests against Notre Dame, Nebraska, & Ohio michigan_helmet-25004St. The Wolverines will probably need to win 2 of those 3 to have any shot at a Top 10 finish. QB Denard Robinson is gone and now trying to make the roster of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. However, Michigan still has junior Devin Gardner, who actually saw significant time at quarterback last season, and it might be a blessing in disguise. It always felt like there may have been too much of a concerted effort to put Robinson in the spotlight…sometimes at the expense of the team. In 2012 Michigan lost 2 of its first 4 games to Alabama & Notre Dame. I don’t think The Irish will be quite as good in 2013 so I’d be surprised if Michigan doesn’t go 7-0 pretty effortlessly before facing the Spartans in East Lansing at the beginning of November. The annual Michigan-Ohio St. rivalry battle is in Ann Arbor this season, and while I don’t think Michigan will be in contention for the national championship they’ll be jacked to have the chance to cost the Buckeyes a title opportunity.

 

 

8              Florida State

Last Season:       12-2

Key Games:        10/19 at Clemson, 11/30 at Florida

The ACC is on the verge of becoming the new Big East…still one of the big boys but certainly on the bottom rung of the ladder. That could change if newcomers (in FloridaStateSeminoles12014) Pitt, Syracuse, & Louisville emerge…or re-emerge…as legit football powers. At any rate, regardless of the mediocrity of teams like Boston College, Georgia Tech, NC St., & Maryland or the even worse ineptitude of Duke & Wake Forest, the Seminoles have long been college football royalty. And while the ghost of Bobby Bowden will never completely go away Coach Jimbo Fisher (a Clarksburg, WV native and fellow alumnus of the Liberty High School) seems to be settling in quite nicely at the beginning of his 4th season at the helm in Tallahassee. A mid-season clash at Clemson will probably decide who wins the Atlantic Division of the conference, while the annual in-state rivalry game against the Florida Gators at the end of the season may have broader implications.

 

 

9              Nebraska

Last Season:       10-4

Key Games:        9/14 vs. UCLA, 11/9 at Michigan, 11/16 vs. Michigan St.

The Cornhuskers transition from The Big 12 (which has ten teams) to The Big 10 (which has 12 teams) has been seamless the past two seasons and I see no reasonhuskers why 2013 should be any different. Two of their key games (one is a non-conference clash with UCLA) are in Lincoln and they do not play Ohio State at all (unless it’s in the conference title game…a distinct possibility). Games against the two Michigan schools will decide the division crown. QB Taylor Martinez returns for his senior year and has become a legit dual threat…a competent passer and a constant threat to run the ball. I’m not sure if he’ll be considered a big time NFL prospect, but at this level he’s a star.

 

 

10           Stanford

Last Season:       12-2

Key Games:        10/19 vs. UCLA, 11/7 vs. Oregon, 11/16 at USC, 11/30 at Notre Dame

Stanford fared just fine in 2012 without star QB Andrew Luck who had left for the NFL. A tough overtime loss to Notre Dame in South Bend aStanford-Logo-Treend an inexplicable defeat at the hands of the very average Washington Huskies were the only blemishes on their record. I foresee a very similar season in 2013. I think they’ll certainly lose to Oregon, and after that two questions arise. First, can they win atleast 2 out of 3 of their other key games against UCLA, USC, & Notre Dame?? Secondly, will there be another curious loss to a lesser yet not terrible team like Oregon St. or Arizona St.??

 

 

11           Georgia

Last Season:       12-2

Key Games:        8/31 at Clemson, 9/7 vs. South Carolina, 9/28 vs. LSU, 11/2 at Florida

Last year I overlooked the Bulldogs. My rationale was simply that in a tough SEC someone had to be the odd man out, and I chose to endorse the likes of Tennessee,id_bulldog_logo_l Auburn, & Arkansas (in addition to safe picks like Alabama & LSU) instead of Georgia. Oops. I will not make that same mistake this time, although I am a bit trepidatious because instead of starting out the season with 2 or 3 cupcakes like most teams seem to these days Georgia will begin 2013 against the likes of Clemson then South Carolina. If they can split those two contests they’ll get a one week break against an inferior opponent before hosting LSU. I don’t know who makes the schedule in Athens but I think they may need to be fired. That being said I think the worst case scenario for this team is 9 wins. 10 or more victories will almost certainly secure a Top 10 finish. Senior QB Aaron Murray will get an early Heisman push and is a solid NFL prospect.

 

 

12           Clemson

Last Season:       11-2

Key Games:        8/31 vs. Georgia, 10/19 vs. Florida St., 11/30 at South Carolina

Clemson returns both QB Taj Boyd and WR Sammy Watkins, which is a huge reason why they are getting so much pre-season love. On the flip side the offense did clemsonlose key contributors RB Andre Ellington and WR DeAndre Hopkins to the NFL. 2 of the 3 key games noted above will be at home. Opening the season against the Georgia Bulldogs is an undeniably tough mountain to climb and makes things a bit unpredictable because so much will depend on what each team has been able to accomplish in the spring and in the past few weeks of late summer practice. I don’t think the loser of that contest is necessarily toast for the remainder of the year, but they will be behind the proverbial 8-Ball. If the Tigers can steal 2 of those key games they are almost assured of a Top 10 finish.

 

 

13           Oklahoma

Last Season:       10-3

Key Games:        9/28 at Notre Dame, 10/5 vs. TCU, 10/12 vs. Texas, 12/7 at Oklahoma St.

The Sooners will be starting a freshman at QB which makes me just a little bit nervous. But I do like their schedule. This feels like another 10 win season for the oklahomaSooners. The question is where do the losses come?? An early season defeat at the hands of Notre Dame wouldn’t hurt nearly as much as losing at the end of the season to in-state rival Oklahoma St. I expect this year’s Red River Shootout (yes I still call it that…screw political correctness) against Texas will decide The Big 12 and possibly play a role in determining who plays for the national championship. QB Blake Bell…aka The Bell Dozer…may not have won the starting job but he’ll surely have an important part to play in the offense.

 

 

14           Cincinnati

Last Season:       10-3

Key Games:        12/5 vs. Louisville

The Bearcats season boils down to one game. Whoever wins that game on December 12 will represent the American Athletic Conference in the final round of BCS CincinnatiBearcatsbowls. The loser will be playing in the Russell Athletic Bowl in December even if they have 11 wins. A year from now Louisville will be another middle-of-the-road, largely forgotten about ACC team (see Miami, FL., Boston College, &, Georgia Tech), while Cincy remains on the deck of the Titanic hoping for a lifeboat. Former coach Butch Jones has moved on to Tennessee, but Cincinnati was…to the shock of many…able to lure new head coach Tommy Tuberville away from Texas Tech. Perhaps Tuberville knows something the rest of us don’t. At the moment it looks to be a two-headed monster situation at QB but personally I’m rooting for Munchie Legaux simply because that is a freakin’ awesome name.

 

 

15           UCLA

Last season:       9-5

Key Games:        9/14 at Nebraska, 10/19 at Stanford, 10/26 at Oregon, 11/30 at USC

USC gets all the love, but there’s another team in Los Angeles that folks need to pay attention to. Once upon a time the UCLA Bruins…admittedly a school betterucla_bruins2 known for its storied basketball team…had a fairly solid football tradition. Bruins alums include such names as Troy Aikman, Jonathan Ogden, Freeman McNeil, Floyd Reese, & Maurice Jones-Drew. They dominated the Pac 10 for much of the 1980s and have been to 12 Rose Bowls, the last being in 1998. However, they have been average at best for most of the past decade. That started to change last year with a 9-5 record under new head coach Jim Mora Jr.  Here is how I see this going down. There is a fairly good chance that this team loses all three of the initial key games I’ve selected. If we assume they win the other 8 then that means the season comes down to the rivalry showdown with USC, and it is completely with the realm of possibility that a division crown and an opportunity to play in the conference championship game (likely against Oregon or Stanford) will be on the line. It’ll be nice to have the Battle of L.A. mean something again.

 

 

16           Oklahoma State

Last Season:       8-5

Key Games:        10/19 vs. TCU, 11/16 at Texas, 12/7 vs. Oklahoma

I believe The Big 12 will be a three horse race and Oklahoma St. will be in that conversation. The Cowboys are almost always an offensive juggernaut. In 2012 they OkSt.logo_score 35+ points nine times. One of their five losses was in overtime to in-state rival Oklahoma and another was by just 5 points to Texas. The Cowboys replace offensive coordinators more often than Van Halen changes lead singers but it doesn’t seem to matter all that much. My biggest concern is the defense. In those 5 losses last year Oklahoma St.’s defense gave up over 47 points per game. That has to change this season and I think it will. The October matchup against TCU is huge. I have gone out on a limb and predicted that the Horned Frogs will not be the Top 25 team that most other polls say they are so the Cowboys need to justify my logic by winning that particular game. Even if they lose to both Texas & Oklahoma they’ll still be in the hunt as long as they win their other 10 games.

 

 

17           Texas A&M

Last Season:       11-2

Key Games:        9/14 vs. Alabama, 11/23 at LSU

The most important question for the Aggies might be how many victories they have to vacate down the road when the NCAA finds that Heisman winning WB Johnny a&mManziel got paid to autograph memorabilia. However, since that issue is a complete wildcard we’ll just have to let that all take care of itself when the time is right and deal with what we think we know about the team. If we take Manziel at face value as a legit player who won’t be disqualified for being a filthy cheater…well…there are still issues. First of all I am not at all sure that he was deserving of that Heisman. Secondly, since winning the award Johnny Football has seemed to be just a bit too enamored with himself and his celebrity status. How will this affect his play and the team chemistry in 2013?? Obviously I don’t think it’ll be that big of a deal. Can the Aggies upset Alabama a second consecutive year?? I highly doubt it although the game is in College Station. But even with a loss there they should reach the end of November with a 9-1 record before heading to Baton Rouge to face LSU. That’ll be a huge game.

 

 

18           Fresno State

Last Season:       9-4

Key Games:        9/20 vs. Boise St.

Traditionally I have a shot-in-the-dark pick in these rankings. It doesn’t take much skill to put a bunch of SEC & Big Ten teams in a Top 25…it’s just putting them in thefresno right order that’s tricky. But…contrary to what the TV people would have you believe…college football is more than just the 4 or 5 “power conferences”.  They play some pretty decent football in the MAC, Mountain West, & C-USA. I have been a Fresno St. fan for awhile now. Their games are always entertaining and they have been a bowl team in 12 of the past 13 seasons. Senior QB Derek Carr is the younger brother of David Carr, who may not have had much of an NFL career but was the NCAA’s most prolific passer in 2001. There’s got to be something in the genes, right?? Much like the Cincinnati Bearcats the season for Fresno St. boils down to one big game. My vibes have led me to jump off the Boise St. bandwagon this year and this game on September 20th will…in the words of Billy Joel…have me walking away a fool or a king.

 

 

19           Notre Dame

Last Season:       12-1

Key Games:        9/7 at Michigan, 9/21 vs. Michigan St., 9/28 vs. Oklahoma, 11/30 at Stanford

A year ago I reluctantly ranked the hated Irish #21 and said that they “will almost certainly lose atleast 3 of the 4” key games I’d selected. Instead they went NotreDameFightingIrishundefeated before screwing the pooch in the National Championship. Okay…so I am not always right. I’m honest about that fact. However, that being said I am once again ranking Notre Dame just a bit lower than most other polls. Sophomore Everett Golson is gone for the season after seemingly forgetting the “student” part of the student-athlete equation. Senior QB Tommy Rees isn’t a bad fallback option, but one has to believe that there is a reason he lost the starting gig to Golson a year ago. Oh yeah…now I remember. Rees was boozing it up at a party and got into a scuffle with the cops which led to a brief suspension therefore opening the door for Golson. Those Irish coaches sure can pick ‘em, huh?? At any rate, Rees now gets another opportunity. Linebacker Manti Te’o has moved on to the NFL (no word on the whereabouts of imaginary dead girlfriend Lennay Kekua), and RBs Theo Riddick & Cierre Wood are also gone. So why rank Notre Dame?? One reason…head coach Brian Kelly. He is undoubtedly one of the best coaches in college football and I believe in his football prowess & motivational skill. Notre Dame’s schedule is always always always brutal, but I still believe they’ll find a way to win 9 or 10 games.

 

 

20           Florida

Last Season:       11-2

Key Games:        10/12 at LSU, 11/2 vs. Georgia, 11/16 at South Carolina, 11/30 vs. Florida St.

The Gators are the 4th of 5 SEC teams in our countdown. Normally this would make me a bit skittish, but six SEC teams finished 2012 in the Top 25, and we all knowflorida gators image that the talking heads love to fawn all over the SEC. Can they split the 4 key games noted above?? Florida has played in a bowl game for 22 consecutive years so it is difficult to fathom that they could ever be anything less than atleast pretty good. These are not the Steve Spurrier/Urban Myer Gators of Danny Wuerffel, Shane Matthews, Chris Leak, or Rex Grossman. Head coach Will Muschamp likes to run the ball and was able to do so effectively in 2012 with RB Mike Gillislee who has moved on to the NFL. I expect junior QB Jeff Driskel to grow considerably in that role this season. The biggest question will be the defense. It was a top 5 group in 2012, but several players, including DT Sharrif Floyd and safety Matt Elam, are now getting paid to play on Sunday. But Muschamp is a former defensive coordinator so he knows how to build a defense. The Gators will need to steal atleast 1 and preferably 2 of the key games noted above to secure a Top 25 ranking.

 

 

21           Northwestern

Last Season:       10-3

Key Games:        10/5 vs. Ohio St., 10/12 at Wisconsin, 11/2 at Nebraska, 11/6 vs. Michigan, 11/23 vs. Michigan St.

Northwestern is generally considered more of an academic school, but they have had some success on the football field, winning 8 or more games six times since Northwestern_Wildcats1995. I really like Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who I recall being a tough linebacker for the Wildcats in the mid-1990’s when they won two consecutive Big Ten titles. Fitzgerald has led his team to 5 straight bowl games. If Northwestern can win just 2 of their 5 key games (easier said than done) and win the other 8 games that they should win this could very well be a 9 or 10 win team.

 

 

22           Michigan St.

Last Season:       7-6

Key Games:        9/21 at Notre Dame, 11/2 vs. Michigan, 11/16 at Nebraska, 11/23 at Northwestern

I know I have mentioned this before but I’m not at all fond of using multiple quarterbacks. You pick a guy and go with him until he gives you a reason to make a michiganchange. But as of this writing my intel says that there are 3 or 4 guys who could take snaps for the Spartans. I actually had this team ranked significantly higher until I read that. At any rate, games at Notre Dame and Nebraska could make or break the season for Michigan St. And of course the annual in-state rivalry clash with the Wolverines is always big…and in 2013 it’s in East Lansing. You may be intrigued that I consider Northwestern to be an important game. The way I see it The Big Ten (which has 12 teams) has the potential to have 5 or 6 pretty good teams. Ohio St., Michigan, & Nebraska are legit Top 10 programs. The second tier consists of Wisconsin, Michigan St., & Northwestern, making the Spartans-Wildcats late November matchup likely a deciding factor when it comes to poll position and bowl bids.

 

 

23           LSU

Last Season:       10-3

Key Games:        8/31 vs. TCU, 9/28 at Georgia, 10/12 vs. Florida, 11/9 at Alabama, 11/23 vs. Texas A&M

It won’t take long for us to find out exactly what the Bayou Bengals are made of in 2013. The TCU Horned Frogs are a team that I am overlooking, but most other lsu_logo-9547pre-season polls seem to believe they are a solid Top 25 team. I expect LSU to defeat them, but there’ll be more to it than simply who wins and who loses. If LSU handles their business and beats TCU effortlessly it could bode well for the remainder of the year. However, if LSU struggles mightily and merely ekes out a victory it could portend future doom in the stacked SEC. The best thing I can say about a murderous schedule is that atleast LSU gets two weeks to prepare for tough games against Alabama and Texas A&M. Winning just two of the 5 key games I’ve listed should mean a 9 win season and solidify a Top 25 ranking.

 

 

24           Tulsa

Last Season:       11-3

Key Games:        9/14 at Oklahoma, 11/14 vs. Marshall

The defending Conference USA Champions are unlikely to take anyone by surprise this year but that’s okay. I see no reason why they can’t again win a revamped tulsaconference (their last in C-USA before joining the American Athletic Conference in 2014). I don’t expect them to defeat Oklahoma in mid-September, but that game could tell us a lot. If Tulsa gets blown out by 50 points then they are unlikely to sniff the Top 25 even if they win the conference. However, if they can be somewhat competitive against the Sooners…maybe a 38-21 type of contest…and win the remainder of their games then maybe they can sneak into the rankings.

 

 

25           BYU

Last Season:       8-5

Key Games:        9/7 vs. Texas, 10/25 vs. Boise St., 11/9 at Wisconsin, 11/23 at Notre Dame

I seem to have an odd BYU fetish. For two straight years I have had them ranked #10 in this pre-season poll. In 2011 they won 10 games but finished unranked and BYU_Cougarsin 2012 they went 8-5. The schedule is undoubtedly brutal. Winning even one of the key games noted above will be a difficult task…winning 2+ will be darn near impossible. So let’s be generous and say the Cougars go 1-3 in these games and even go a step further by predicting that they won’t get completely destroyed in the losses. Then it becomes atleast within the realm of possibility that they could win 8 or 9 games. And any team that could achieve that level of success under such demanding circumstances would deserve to be ranked.

2012 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 8

I feel the need to be candid. There was a brief moment this past weekend when I seriously pondered the idea of ending this charade. You see, I am a person who probably takes sports a bit too seriously. Losses affect me very deeply. I do not have a wife or girlfriend. I do not have children. I do not have a lot of friends or copious amounts of discretionary cash. I enjoy simple pleasures, one of those being the success of my favorite sports teams. When my Pittsburgh Steelers, who I knew deep down in my gut months ago might be on the threshold of a downward spiral, lost on a last second field goal to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night, I was extremely disappointed. Then Saturday came and my “other” favorite college team (the top dog being my alma mater’s Marshall Thundering Herd, who were enjoying a bye week), the Top 5 ranked WV Mountaineers, were inexplicably blasted by Texas Tech, I was devastated. To add to the frustration I am in five fantasy football leagues and am not doing well in any of them. So when the icing on the cake became yet another exasperating go round with these picks I entertained the notion of just quitting. After all, this is my blog. I write what I want, and am under no obligation to continue banging my head against a brick wall for no reason. I am not getting paid for this, as I have mentioned numerous times. But the truth is that I am generally not a quitter. The book of Proverbs tells that “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” The football gods have humbled me, but I will move forward. Last week I went 2-7, with a few of those losses being games where I picked the right winner but they did not cover the spread. Overall for the season I am now a horrifying 19-34. Nothing much I can say to defend that.

 

 

 

 

LSU (-3.5)        at         Texas A&M

When picking South Carolina to defeat LSU last week I did say that “LSU might have finally gotten the wake-up call they needed” when they lost to Florida the previous Saturday. I was on the right track I guess. Meanwhile, the Aggies have quietly gone 5-1 in their inaugural SEC season, with the only blemish being a narrow loss to Florida in the first week of the season. Two things jump out at me here. First of all, the game is in College Station. Secondly, it is more than possible that the Bayou Bengals could suffer the proverbial “hangover” or letdown after such a huge win last week. One must also wonder whether LSU could be looking ahead to a showdown with #1 Alabama next week. It is for these reasons that I think this’ll be a real dogfight. Which is the real LSU?? Is it the team that destroyed the Gamecocks last week, or is it the team that struggled to beat Towson and Auburn?? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, and that is enough for me to predict the upset. Go Aggies!!

 

 

Iowa State      at         Oklahoma State (-13.5)

I didn’t think the Cyclones stood a chance against Kansas St. last week, but even though they lost it was by less than a touchdown. Oklahoma St. has been a rather prosaic 3-2 thus far, and are very surprising favorites in this game. I understand the concept of a home field advantage, but 13.5 points?? I don’t think so. The Cowboys might win, but it’ll be much closer than that.

 

 

Nebraska (-4.5)          at         Northwestern

The race for the Big 10 title is intriguing. Two of the top teams in the conference, Ohio St. & Penn St., are both ineligible for the crown and won’t be participating in postseason play. That really opens things up for other squads. Unfortunately for these two teams they play in the other division of the Big 10, meaning the woes of Pedophile St. & Tattoo St. are meaningless because they still must contend with Iowa and Michigan to go anywhere. The Wildcats have been impressive while going 6-1, and Nebraska less so while amassing their 4-2 record. If Northwestern wants to prove that they really belong at the big table with the good teams they have to win this game. It is telling that the oddsmakers have made the Cornhuskers the favorites, because it indicates that they really aren’t buying Northwestern as legitimate contenders. Wrestling legend Ric Flair used to say “To be the man you have to beat the man”, which is true. I am going to go way out on a limb here and take Northwestern to defy the odds, beat the man, and prove that they are legit.

 

 

South Carolina           at         Florida (-3)

We all know what happened to South Carolina last week at the hands of LSU, but I think it is way too soon to count out the Gamecocks, who only lost that game by 2 points. I personally haven’t given Florida much respect this season, but they have been impressive compiling a 6-0 record and skyrocketing to 2nd in the BCS rankings, meaning that if they win out they will play for the national championship. This game is at The Swamp, which explains the 3 point spread. Actually I am surprised it isn’t bigger. This game is also a big one for coach Steve Spurrier, who I am sure everyone will remember played & coached at Florida. I just don’t believe that Spurrier will let his team lose two weeks in a row. I think RB Marcus Lattimore will have a huge game, and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is a beast who I think will be spending a lot of time in the Gators’ backfield en route to a huge South Carolina victory.

 

 

Seattle                        at                     San Francisco (-7)

Are the 4-2 Seattle Seahawks for real?? What is wrong with the 4-2 49ers?? It is fascinating that we can look at two teams with identical records thru such vastly different prisms. Much was expected from San Francisco this season, and they really haven’t delivered as fully as most thought they would. Conversely, no one expected anything from Seattle and they have over delivered in a big way. I still think Frisco is the better team and will eventually win the division easily, but Seattle might atleast remain in the discussion for a wildcard spot. As far as this particular game goes, it is the Thursday night NFL Network game, and I’d be shocked if the 49ers didn’t respond…strongly…to last weekend’s loss to the NY Giants. Seattle will suffer the classic letdown after a tremendous win over the New England Patriots and lose this game by double digits.

 

 

Washington   at         NY Giants (-7)

So far it looks like the choice of QB Robert Griffin III in the 1st round of the draft was an excellent move. I couldn’t name a single wide receiver or running back on the Redskins’ roster, but it doesn’t matter. RGIII has singlehandedly re-energized the team and its entire fanbase. Meanwhile, the defending Super Bowl champion Giants are just plodding along at 4-2, neither looking like world beaters nor totally sucking. Because Griffin had such a standout effort last week I am picking the Giants this week. Rookie QBs are nothing if not inconsistent, and I just don’t think RGIII will shine again so soon. I believe he will be neutralized by the Giants’ pass rush, led by Mathias Kiwanuka & Jason Pierre Paul, and the Giants running game will dominate the time of possession.

 

 

Arizona           at         Minnesota (-6)

Two of the most surprising teams in the NFL this season go head-to-head. The Cardinals come into this game 4-2 with a share of the lead in the NFC West. The Vikings got victimized by RGIII last Sunday but are still a respectable 4-2. I feel like this is a total pick ‘em game, but the edge comes from the rushing attack. We don’t know who’ll tote the rock for Arizona, because their RBs keep getting injured. Conversely, the Vikings can count on the reliable Adrian Petersen, who isn’t averaging big numbers in 2012 but is a steady force that enables WR Percy Harvin to get open for big plays. That’s the difference and why I am picking Minnesota.