While the Super Bowl is two weeks away and the Pro Bowl is next weekend, this week also marks the official start of the draft preparation process for the league as the Senior Bowl practices kickoff. With the NFL starting the actual draft process, the mock draft season, which started in earnest last week, will really begin to gain momentum over the next couple of weeks.
For SB Nation's Mocking the Draft, they are already getting into their weekly 2014 NFL Mock Draft publication rhythm, with Dan Kadar and Matthew Fairburn alternating their personal updates. This week, Kadar was up, and he posted his newest predictions this morning.
Kadar started his mock with a change, looking at the Houston Texans taking South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall selection, rather than Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as he had previously predicted. As he writes, "If the [Houston} scouting department and general manager Rick Smith don't see a franchise quarterback, Clowney could be the choice. Owner Bob McNair has said Clowney is a once-a-decade player, and that may not be a smoke screen."
With the second overall selection, Kadar agrees with a lot of the projections being posted lately that the St. Louis Rams will likely not make this pick, looking to trade out of the second position that they received from the Washington Redskins for trading out of the second position two years ago. They likely will not end up with the haul of first round selections that they did in 2012, but they could come away with something extra, setting up an even better draft.
With the second pick, since Kadar does not actually do trades in his mock, the Rams take Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, which is actually something Keith Beebe and I have discussed. It's a really smart pick for the Rams, who added the small, speedy Tavon Austin last year. Don't be surprised if the Rams are looking tackle, given Jake Long suffered through another injury filled season this year, but grabbing Watkins at number two overall would be a great move.
Picks three, four, and five all come down to quarterbacks in this mock, with the Jacksonville Jaguars snatching Teddy Bridgewater with the third pick, the Cleveland Browns landing Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel with the fourth, and the Oakland Raiders selecting UCF's Blake Bortles with the fifth pick. From now until May 8, the order of the three top quarterback prospects, and whether any of them are "franchise" signal callers, will continually be debated. However, in a league so dependent on quarterback play, and a rookie wage scale that does not mean a first-round quarterback could decimate your team for five years, Bridgewater, Manziel, and Bortles should all go in the top five picks, with the eighth pick to the Minnesota Vikings being the latest any of them are still on the board.
As is becoming customary at this point, the Miami Dolphins' pick at the 19th overall position has "OT" written next to his name. In this case, Kadar has Miami tacking Tennessee's Antonio Richardson. Explaining the pick, Kadard writes, "Dolphin fans should be used to this sort of pick by now. Whatever offensive lineman falls to Miami, within reason, should be the choice. Richardson is an athletic left tackle who can beat speed rushers to the edge and is capable of getting out on the move."
Obviously, between now and free agency in March, tackle is going to be the most widely projected position for the Dolphins. The team could, however, look to address the offensive line needs with some of the potential tackles and guards who will be on the market, making the draft a more interesting one for the team. Obviously, we won't know for sure until ink hits paper in March, and the team turns in the draft pick card in May, but we will continue to see how the mock drafts around SB Nation and the rest of the internet, evolve during the offseason.