NFL Draft: Bridgewater, Bortles ahead of Manziel

NFL Draft: Bridgewater, Bortles ahead of Manziel
March 18, 2014, 12:45 pm
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Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles speaks to the media in a press conference during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

(USA Today Sports Images)
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Free agency is a week old, but the heavy lifting is done. What teams can accomplish from here out until the draft is mostly fine-tuning, with only a few notable free agents left available and a handful of veterans who might remain on the trading block.

That doesn't mean that needs can't change on a dime, and there are still some medical issues that teams will want to clear up on a few notable players before setting their boards in stone. But rosters are starting to crystallize as we approach the May 8-10 draft. Compensatory picks will be added at the end of the month, which will change the landscape a bit, but most teams have a feel for how many picks they'll end up with and where they will be.

With that in mind, and most teams' draft grades approaching locked-in status, we thought we'd try our hand at a two-round mock draft. Hey, why not?

1. Houston Texans — South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney

I believe Bill O’Brien would take a quarterback here if he felt there was an overwhelming favorite. In his mind, we think, there is not. O’Brien believes the defense lacks toughness, multiple sources around the Texans told Shutdown Corner. So could the Texans find a way to pry Vince Wilfork away from the Patriots on the cheap? That’s a deal that makes sense. Put Wilfork and J.J. Watt on either side of Clowney and let those veterans light a fire underneath the rookie. Romeo Crennel can act as father figure. I believe Crennel helped Dontari Poe mature in Kansas City and could do the same for Clowney. He’s the most dominant player in the draft when he’s motivated.

2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins) — Auburn OT Greg Robinson

The surprise return of Rodger Saffold to the Rams initially had me rethinking this pick. But it doesn’t appear Saffold is coming back as a tackle. Saffold pinch hit late in the season at right guard, despite having not played much there, and the results were strong in a blowout of the Colts. Jeff Fisher might have seen enough in that one game to project a full-time change. "He made the switch last year, a difficult switch," Fisher said recently. "He was very, very productive inside. Our plan is to play him at guard as we continue to fill the pieces around him." So there you have it: Robinson at right tackle, despite the temptation and allure of projecting wide receiver Sammy Watkins here. But with Robinson, this O-line would be vastly improved and much better equipped to handle the rigors of NFC West pass rushers.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater

I had convinced myself, as recently as 10 days ago, that Khalil Mack was the play here. Gus Bradley, a defensive guy, wanted his “Leo” rush linebacker and Mack appeared a perfect fit. But their moves in free agency, which centered around strengthening the front seven, appear to nix this move and (again) highlight the need for a strong-willed, athletic and determined quarterback. That’s Bridgewater, even with his blah pro day effort. Who cares, really? His intangibles might be his biggest strength, but he can sling the rock a little, too. The Jaguars want to be a play-action football team — power football setting up the downfield pass — and Bridgewater has gotten better on his deep touch and accuracy. This is a very nice fit for a team that is going to surprise people next season. 

4. Cleveland Browns — Central Florida QB Blake Bortles

This is a tough one. This is a pick that you’d think would have to be quarterback, but the Browns will keep you guessing as much as any team in the NFL. Their moves have been strange, interesting and unpredictable, and we’re talking about a first-year general manager and first-year head coach making a pick here with the heft and fear of knowing there is an owner above them who not only must sign off on this choice, but also on their respective paychecks. Ink is running dry in Cleveland these days. For now, it’s Bortles — an upside-driven pick at a need position, despite his tangible flaws. I am not locked in here, and neither might be the Browns, sending out signals they could go off the script at any point. For what it’s worth, I don’t think Bortles should be the fourth pick in the draft. I just think he could be. 

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