The NIT Nati Mock Draft 2014

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Jan 1, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Michigan State Spartans safety RJ Williamson (26) and cornerback Darqueze Dennard (31) tackle Stanford Cardinal running back Anthony Wilkerson (32) during the first half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

This is it, the sixth annual Never In The ‘Nati Mock Draft!  This year’s draft does not offer a degree of comfort at any level, suggesting that Thursday night is going to be a wild one.  In 2014, I started listening to what teams were saying just after the New Year as a central metric to this year’s mock, and it’s very surprising how certain teams have maneuvered throughout this process.  As an attempt to avoid “paralysis by analysis” which seems rampant in this longer than normal draft season, the following picks are an attempt to cut through some of the hype and offer some suggestions against teams’ actual needs.  Enjoy!

1.  Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina.  Without question, Jadeveon Clowney will go number one overall, and as much as Falcon’s General Manager Thomas Dimitroff may want to cash all his chips in for Atlanta to move up, it’s unlikely that a team hamstrung by a $100M quarterback can afford to give up enough draft picks to make such a deal work.  The Texans don’t mind though; Clowney is a once-in-a-decade type player and far-and-way the top player in this year’s draft.  Paired with JJ Watt, there are very few offensive lines able to last a full four quarters against that brand of pass rush.  Owner Bob McNair has indicated that a rookie quarterback would not start right away, and while TJ Yates might not be the long term answer at quarterback, Houston should still be able to find a groomable signal caller at the top of the second, or even third round.

Oct 19, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Bulls linebacker Khalil Mack (46) makes a tackle during a game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at University of Buffalo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

2.  Saint Louis Rams – Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo.  Lots of mocks have Greg Robinson here, and though he may a top prospect, there is depth at the offensive line position.  Even with Rodger Saffold reportedly moving inside to guard, drafting a tackle at this point remains bit unnecessary with as much talent to pick from as this draft has to offer.  Saint Louis will try to shop this pick, but if they cannot get value, it comes down to Mack or Sammy Watkins.  The reality is that there will be a quality receiver when the Rams pick again at thirteen or even round two.  Quietly, the Rams are building a juggernaut in the NFC West, and with Mack in the fold, that defense will just get more terrifying.