It isn't officially the holidays until Todd McShay posts his first mock draft of the year.
McShay, ESPN draft analyst and president of Scouts Inc., posted version 1.0 of his 2014 NFL Mock Draft yesterday morning. And it was a doozy, to say the least, pairing the inevitable (Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to Houston at No. 1) with the surprising (Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles going to the Oakland Raiders at No. 3; Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel going to the Jaguars one pick later). And not to boast, but some of his picks did correlate with the mock draft I posted on Tuesday (Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley to the Giants; Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins to the Jets; USC receiver Marqise Lee to the Lions; Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson to the Saints), so there's that. I make a lot of jokes about McShay and ESPN's very own Mel Kiper Jr., but if I can put together a mock that loosely mirrors their work, I must be doing something all right (that or we're failing together).
As for who McShay has going to Miami, I'll get to that in a moment. In the meantime, here are some highlights from his 2014 NFL Mock Draft 1.0.
2) St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)
Jake Matthews, OT Texas A&M
I figure it'll be difficult for the Rams to say no to Jadeveon Clowney after he mauls the Combine next February, but this pick ultimately makes more sense. Dolphins fans know all too well that Jake Long's health is constantly in question, so why wouldn't St. Louis nab the best offensive tackle in this year's class? Matthews is a first-rate run blocker with the potential to become just as good in pass protection. There's currently a debate whether Matthews or his former teammate, Luke Joeckel, will end up as the better pro. Joeckel will be a good one, but give me Matthews any day.
6) Cleveland Browns
Derek Carr, QB Fresno State
Holy crap. I thought Carr would start getting top-10 looks around the time of the Combine, but not prior to Christmastime. McShay feels otherwise, slotting the Fresno State standout to Cleveland at No. 6. Hard to argue with the logic here--Cleveland wants a quarterback, but Bortles and Manziel are both off the board, so go with the next-best passer available. And thanks to inflated value we see with the quarterback position every spring, Carr could warrant some top-15 or -20 consideration even if he doesn't test out at a high level during pre-draft evaluations and workouts.
7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Anthony Barr, OLB UCLA
The Bucs are a tough team to get a feel for in terms of draft focus, as we have no idea what will happen with head coach Greg Schiano (or the team's front office, for that matter). That said, Barr does kind of feel like a square-peg-in-a-round-hole selection for Tampa. The UCLA pass-rusher has 3-4 outside linebacker written all over him. And as we're currently seeing with Miami's Dion Jordan, it's not always a great idea to force these guys into a 4-3 end role, even if they bulk up to the necessary weight for it. Then again, maybe Tampa can use Barr in a manner similar to how Denver uses Von Miller, who was looked at as a pure 3-4 edge-rusher when he came out of Texas A&M. Either way, this is one of the more intriguing selections in McShay's mock, but not as intriguing as ...
21) Chicago Bears
Dominique Easley, DL Florida
First off, I have no problem with Easley going mid-first round. I have him going to the Cowboys in my current mock draft, and I think he'll tear up the Combine something fierce. What puzzles me about the Chicago selection is that Easley--a guy who struggles to stay healthy, and is coming off of a torn ACL he suffered last September--would be expected to kick inside (which he's big enough to do) and take over the 3-technique from Henry Melton, a guy who is also coming off of a torn ACL. If I am Chicago, durability is way high up on my draft checklist next spring, and Easley has yet to prove he can stay healthy. Personally, I struggle to see a scenario in which the Bears pass on Florida State's Timmy Jernigan or Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman at this spot.
And now, the moment you're all waiting for ...
22) Miami Dolphins
Timmy Jernigan, DT Florida State
The Bears' loss is our gain, I suppose. Here's McShay's take on the Dolphins' pick:
"Offensive line is the Dolphins' biggest need, but there isn't much value available in this scenario," McShay wrote. "Meanwhile, Miami also needs a D-tackle and getting Jernigan this late in the first round is a steal (he ranks No. 7 overall in our prospect rankings). He is strong at the point of attack against the run but also has the ability to get upfield and disrupt opponents in the backfield as an interior pass-rusher (10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks this season). His first-step quickness and range versus the run are very good."
Interesting. Dolphins defensive tackles Randy Starks and Paul Soliai may walk after this season, so Miami might need to be on the lookout for top-end D-tackles in May. If so, Jernigan's a no-brainer--he's an absolute bull along the interior, and is arguably the most complete defensive tackle in this year's draft. As McShay points out, offensive line is Miami's greatest need. However, if Jernigan is available at this spot, the Dolphins really have no choice but to take him--he's that good of a prospect.
Those of you who subscribe to ESPN Insider can read McShay's 2014 NFL Mock Draft 1.0 in its entirety here.
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