Niners Digest Mock Draft

The NFL moved the draft back two weeks this year, giving us more time to speculate on which players will get taken by each team.

I have sold out.

Few things have less real value than trying to project which players teams are going to pick at which spots in the first round of the NFL draft. But that didn't stop me from doing this anyway. I have a dog to feed and readers to entertain, or something.

This will be my first ever mock draft. And despite my inclination to despise everything about creating one, I actually found it quite helpful. It allowed me a chance to find pockets in the first round where teams might be willing to move around via trades, which will be very important for the 49ers considering their prerogative to move up from No. 30 overall.


A few notes before getting into the picks. Personally, I'm not high on any of these quarterbacks as a top-10 talent. If forced to choose one with a gun to my head, I'd go with Johnny Manziel just because of the upside. But I have him dropping (49ers fans might not be thrilled where) with Blake Bortles being the only other quarterback taken in the first round. To me Teddy Bridgewater, Jimmy Garoppolo, Tom Savage, A.J. McCarron and Derek Carr are all second-round talents, which should make for a fascinating Day 2.

Otherwise, this is a loaded draft for receivers. The theme of this round, in my eyes, is that a number of teams will take receivers early forcing others to snag some second-round talents in the first. Overall, there are eight receivers going in the first round of this mock draft. And I know that seems like a wild number, but it's also worth keeping in mind this is a trade-free mock. A number of teams - San Francisco included - will be trying to move up for players like Mike Evans and Odell Beckham. I have some of those teams taking receivers later in the round.

Finally, if Manziel falls to where I think he could, it will easily be the story of the first round. As always, you can yell at me on Twitter here.

On to the picks:

1. Houston Texans, Jadeveon Clowney, DE South Carolina

Any thought of Houston and head coach Bill O'Brien even considering a quarterback with the first pick seems outrageous. Pairing Clowney on a defensive front with J.J. Watt could instantly give the Texans the most feared unit in football. Keep in mind, the Texans had the No. 7 defense in the NFL in terms of yardage despite everything that went wrong last year. Adding Clowney to that front pushes the defense from very good to elite right away in a conference loaded with good quarterbacks on contending teams. If Houston wants to contend with the Colts for AFC South title for years to come, its best chance is by constantly putting Andrew Luck on his back. Any discussion about Clowney's work ethic will be answered by a chance to work with Watt every day, who will hold Clowney accountable for his effort.

2. St. Louis Rams, Greg Robinson, T Auburn

If the Rams are going to take the next step and contend in the rough-and-tumble NFC West, they're going to have to find ways to help out Sam Bradford, or whoever plays quarterback going forward. St. Louis could do a number of things here, including going after Sammy Watkins or trading back to find another quality tackle early in the first round. They also have a pick at No. 13 which they could easily use on a tackle. For now, Robinson is a safe pick to be the team's franchise tackle for years to come.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars, Jake Matthews, T Texas A&M

If Clowney goes to Houston, as expected, any chance of a turnaround and eventual playoff run will require a massive upgrade on the offensive line for Jacksonville. The Jaguars are another team that could go with Watkins here, but the massive rebuild of the offense needs to start from the inside out. They could use a quarterback to be sure, but it would be a pretty big reach at this point considering they could find one in the early second round or perhaps move back into the first to get one. Tackles are never sexy picks, but the Jaguars would be smart to lock one up here.

4. Cleveland Browns, Blake Bortles, QB Central Florida

The Browns will be the first team to take a quarterback off the board, but it won't be the one everyone in Cleveland is asking for, per usual. The Browns will go with the safest player at the position and use their other pick at 26 to help Bortles out. For once, Cleveland can feel confident in landing a franchise quarterback and spend first-round picks in the coming years on helping the rest of the team to try and turn things around. Again, Watkins could be an intriguing option to pair with Josh Gordon and go with a quarterback at 26. But the Browns might be weary of taking a risk and instead go with Bortles who has the highest floor of any quarterback in the draft, at the very worst.

5. Oakland Raiders, Sammy Watkins, WR Clemson

Watkins lands with the Raiders who desperately need playmakers on offense. Watkins could instantly become one of the best receivers in the division, which will certainly make Matt Schaub happy, who fondly remembers his time in Houston throwing to Andre Johnson. Watkins is the best player available who also fills a position of need. Bringing in an exciting talent like this could go a long way to reinvigorate a fan base that's grown weary of the team's current direction. The safe pick here could be an offensive tackle, but few players come into the league as dynamic as Watkins. It's a make-or-break year for Reggie McKenzie. He'll need to hit it out of the park with this pick.

6. Atlanta Falcons, Khalil Mack, OLB Buffalo

The Falcons need to shore up the interior on both sides. They are another team that could take a tackle, but the idea of adding an elite talent like Mack on the defensive side will be too tempting to pass up. With Drew Brees in the division, the defense will have to find a way to move him off the spot consistently. Mack could be the guy for the job. Should he turn around the pass rush like he's capable, the Falcons might not be too far from a return to the playoffs.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Taylor Lewan, T Michigan

The Buccs have a very talented defense and could use another wideout opposite Vincent Jackson, but they need to sure up the offensive line. They could do that with Lewan. With Donald Penn moving on to the Raiders, tackle becomes a glaring need. Tampa will take a long look at Mike Evans here, but they could address the position later in the draft given the overall depth of the class.

8. Minnesota Vikings, Mike Evans, WR Texas A&M

Cordarrelle Patterson gave Vikings fans a ton of hope with his outstanding play as a returner last year, but perhaps the best chance to help him develop will be to give him a strong running mate on the opposite side of the formation. The Viking could certainly use a quarterback, but taking one here might be a reach when they could move back into the first round later or find a value in the second. For now, they could help out their future quarterback and coordinator Norv Turner by taking the best receiver available. Adrian Peterson wouldn't mind another receiving threat on the outside to lighten the box either.

9. Buffalo Bills, Eric Ebron, TE North Carolina

The Bills need a receiver, but instead they opt for a match-up nightmare at tight end in Ebron, who will have no problem splitting wide and acting as a receiver. The Bills will need to surround E.J. Manuel with weapons, and it could start here at tight end. Otherwise, they could look for Zack Martin of Notre Dame or one of the many talented wideouts available.

10. Detroit Lions, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S Alabama

The Lions need help in the secondary to help out its talented defensive line. They could take the first corner off the board, but instead they go with the best safety in the draft in Clinton-Dix to sure up the back end. Dix has outstanding recognition skills, imperative to facing off Aaron Rodgers twice a year, and will start from the jump. The Lions will be another team looking in the mix for a receiver, but it became less of a need after landing Golden Tate in free agency.

11. Tennessee Titans, Odell Beckham, WR LSU

The Titans could easily take a corner here to replace Alterraun Verner, but instead they opt for one of the draft's hottest names in Beckham. Nate Washington is 30 entering a contract year and Tennessee needs to add someone alongside Kendall Wright for the long term. Beckham could be that player, while also contributing on special teams in the early going. The Titans could try and find a quarterback here or perhaps move back, but instead they opt for one of the draft's most explosive playmakers.

12. New York Giants, Aaron Donald, DT Pittsburgh

Donald would be a nice get for the Giants here, who need to infuse some young talent on the defensive front. Taking the Pitt product here would be a good value despite his relatively average size for the position. He features pass rushing skills that should compliment Jason Pierre Paul well as the team looks to replace Justin Tuck. The Giants could also look at a receiver, but with Beckham off the board, they won't reach for a player like Brandin Cooks this early.

13. St. Louis Rams, Justin Gilbert, CB Oklahoma State

With their second pick in the first round, the Rams will be happy to take the top corner in the draft off the board to add to an already exciting defense. Corner isn't a need, but adding an elite talent to opposite Janoris Jenkins would be welcomed, especially after Cortland Finnegan's struggles last season - not to mention Trumaine Johnson's recent DUI. Safety is a more pressing need and Calvin Pryor could be a possibility, but the Rams will like the chance at having one of the league's elite set of starting corners.

14. Chicago Bears, C.J. Mosley, LB Alabama

The Bears defense was third-worst in the NFL in points allowed in 2013 and allowed 5.3 yards per carry to opponents. They could use upgrades all over, including the defensive line. But it only seems right Mosley comes in with a chance to become the team's next iconic linebacker after Brian Urlacher hung them up two years ago. Mosley plays faster on tape than his 4.68 speed would indicate and he could start right away on a team desperate for talent in among the front seven.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers, Darqueze Dennard, CB Michigan State

With Ike Taylor turning 34 next week, it's clear the Steelers will need to find a young cornerback who could vie for a starting job right away. Dennard might be the most NFL ready corner in the draft. He doesn't posses elite speed for the position, but plays as strong as anyone. Dennard would be a welcomed addition to Pittsburgh's defense that fell back toward the middle of the pack in 2013.

16. Dallas Cowboys, Calvin Pryor, S Louisville

The Cowboys allowed more yards per game than any team in the NFL. They could certainly use some help on the defensive front, but with Donald gone they might want to wait until later to find help there. They need a safety and Pryor fits the bill. The hard-hitting Louisville product could be plugged in and start right away, giving the Cowboy's a Donte Whitner-like presence at the back end of the defense.

17. Baltimore Ravens, Zack Martin, T Notre Dame

The Ravens will be looking to find a replacement for Michael Oher, who left for the Titans in free agency. Martin could help bookend an offensive line that already has Eugene Monroe on the other side. They could go for a safety, but there might not be one with a first round grade given Clinton-Dix and Pryor are already off the board. They could spring for a receiver, but at this point taking Martin just makes too much sense.

18. New York Jets, Brandin Cooks, WR Oregon State

The Jets signed Eric Decker, but still need another playmaker on the offense. Cooks could be deadly in the ball with his hand and allow offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to get creative with the playbook. Mornhinweg had DeSean Jackson with the Eagles, so it won't be too difficult for him to find a role for Cooks with Michael Vic at quarterback. If New York could find a way to be explosive on offense while continuing to improve on defense, they could be a viable playoff contender after finishing 8-8 in 2013.

19. Miami Dolphins, Morgan Moses, T Virginia

The Dolphins have to find a way to protect Ryan Tennehill, who was sacked at the third-worst rate in football last year. They traded away starting left tackle Jonathan Martin to the 49ers this offseason and will need to find a player that can start early. Moses is that guy as long as he continues to work hard and stay in shape.

20. Arizona Cardinals, Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M

Here we are. With quarterback being one of the team's few needs, the Cardinals address it here by taking a chance on Manziel, who slipped in the draft because teams weren't willing to fall on the short end of his boom-or-bust projections. Should Manziel slip all the way to 20, it would scary for the entire NFC given the Cardinals' already-stout defense. With Carson Palmer still on the roster, the Cardinals could afford to either let Manziel learn from the veteran or start right away. Otherwise, this could be a spot where a number of teams try to trade into to acquire a corner or receiver.

21. Green Bay Packers, Ryan Shazier, LB Ohio State

The Packers could use an infusion of talent at linebacker alongside A.J. Hawk, and who better than the fellow Ohio State product? Shazier might not be the best fit for a base 3-4 defense initially as Will linebacker, but the Packers could easily find a role for him as an inside linebacker in nickel situations while he adds bulk to his frame. Shazier is an elite athlete who plays a lot like Lavonte David of Tampa Bay. Adding Shazier to defense behind Clay Matthews could be a dangerous proposition for NFC North foes.

22. Philadelphia Eagles, Marqise Lee, WR USC

With Cooks gone, Lee makes a lot of sense for the Eagles, who will be looking to find a new big-play wideout after letting go of Jackson. Lee has a similar skill set, although he didn't run as well at the combine as he would have hoped. Lee had insane production during his first two seasons with the Trojans but had his junior season derailed by injuries. He was a consensus All American in 2012 when he made 118 receptions for 1,721 yards. The Eagles could look to the defensive side by taking a corner, but Lee could be a weapon as a third wideout right away.

23. Kansas City Chiefs, Cody Latimer, WR Indiana

Coming off their playoff berth a year ago, the Chiefs won't be able to find their safety compliment to Eric Berry here, but instead add a big-bodied receiver who can help make life easier for Alex Smith. Kansas City has Dwayne Bowe and not much else at the position. Getting Latimer here could give them two big, physical receivers that could excel in the red zone and give the offense an extra boost going forward. Sorry, A.J. Jenkins.

24. Cincinnati Bengals, Kony Ealy, DE Missouri

The Bengals need to find a replacement for Michael Johnson, who signed with Tampa Bay at the start of free agency. Ealy is long (34 1/4-inch arms) and athletic, although he's likely best suited with his hand in the dirt. The Bengals are another team that could be looking at a cornerback here, but Ealy might be the best value at 24.

25. San Diego Chargers, Kyle Fuller, CB Virginia Tech

The Chargers have an obvious need at corner and Fuller could be the best available. That distinction might have gone to Bradley Roby prior to his recent arrest for operating a vehicle while impaired, but the Chargers will have no problem having Fuller fall into their lap here. Some believe Fuller could have a higher ceiling than both Gilbert and Dennard. Should he last this long, he could be a nice grab for a team that has to go against Peyton Manning and the Broncos twice.

26. Cleveland Browns, Kelvin Benjamin, WR Florida State

Having already gotten their quarterback in Bortles at No. 4, the Browns add another piece to the offense by getting Benjamin here. There might not be a better wideout in the draft at going to get the ball. He's very athletic for his size (6-5, 240), running a decent 4.6 in the 40. With Benjamin's size and ability to make big plays down field, he could be a nice compliment to Josh Gordon by being able to pull safeties to his side of the field.

27. New Orleans Saints, Ra'Shede Hageman, DT Minnesota

The Saints could also use a corner, but instead they go with Hagemon, who would be nice fit on the inside of the defense alongside Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks. At 6-5 and 310 pounds, the former Golden Gopher appeared in all 38 games of his last three collegiate seasons and is best suited for a one-gap role in a 3-4 defense. The Saints defense was fourth in the NFL in scoring, but allowed 4.6 yards per carry. Adding Hagemon could help them improve there drastically.

28. Carolina Panthers, Cyrus Kouandjio, T Alabama

The Panthers need a wide receiver perhaps more than anyone in the draft and will likely trade up to find one of the top three or four guys at the position in real life. The same could be said for tackle. But in this mock, they take the massive Kouandjio who has a ton of upside. Kouandjio could help solve the Panthers' long term need at the tackle position, if they do decide to stand pat and not move up.

29. New England Patriots, Timmy Jernigan, DT Florida State

The Patriots need to add youth on the defensive line. Jernigan was once viewed as an early-first-round prospect, but has since dropped since the start of the evaluation process. The former Seminole has better tape than measurables, but he is versatile enough to play all over the Pats' defensive line. He could be nice value here at the end of the round while also filling a position of need.

30. San Francisco 49ers, Jordan Matthews, WR Vanderbilt

As the draft approaches, it appears less and less likely the 49ers will be picking at this spot. They have six picks in the first three rounds and shouldn't have any problem moving into the 10-15 range to take the corner or receiver of their choosing. But for the sake of this mock, it's going to be Matthews. Matthews is one of the draft's better blend of size, speed and length, measuring over 6-3, 212 pounds with 33 1/4-inch arms and massive 10 1/4-inch hands. When researching Matthews' background, he reads a lot like last year's first-round pick Eric Reid. He might be considered a stretch here at 30, but given the 49ers' need at the position and likely unwillingness to take a chance on Bradley Roby this early, Matthews is the pick here as the eighth receiver taken in the first round.

31. Denver Broncos, Jason Verrett, CB TCU

The Broncos signed Aqib Talib in the offseason after losing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the Giants in free agency. They also lost veteran Champ Bailey to New Orleans. Adding Verrett gives them a good option at nickel in the short term to play inside of Chris Harris, who played very well for Denver in 2013. The Broncos will also be considering a receiver and a tight end, but end up with one of the best players available with Verrett.

32. Seattle Seahawks, Louis Nix III, NT Notre Dame

The Seahawks lost Red Bryant in free agency and will need a big body to plug into their championship defense. Nix could be the guy here because he fills and need and would be a solid value at this point. The 331-pounder is enormous and shows good initial burst for his size. Putting Nix in the middle of a defense already as talented as Seattle's could maximize his production.


Follow Editor in Chief Chris Biderman on Twitter.

Get updates from NinersDigest by following here and become a subscriber to receive access to premium content and analysis.

Niners Digest Top Stories