Looking at the top ten picks

I still have a hard time imagining this guy being anything but the #1 pick

Hands up who thought Atlanta and Houston were genuine contenders to own the first pick in 2014?

It’s suddenly a reality with five weeks to go in the season.

Few teams are playing tougher than Tampa Bay right now (and big props to Mike Glennon who really looks the part), while even Jacksonville have picked up a couple of wins.

The Falcons and Texans, meanwhile, appear doomed.

And while the players (and coaches) have a point to prove in Tampa Bay and Jacksonville, there’s a definite feel of “what’s the point?” surrounding the two teams who expected to compete for a Super Bowl going into the season.

How do you get that motivation back? Is it possible?

If you own either of those teams, do you even want to get it back?

Both clubs have enough talent to rebound quickly in 2014. Throw in a top-five draft pick (or even the #1 overall pick) and that becomes an even greater possibility.

Imagine J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney on the same defense. It could happen.

Even if you badly need a quarterback — can you pass on that?

This is how the top ten would look if the season ended today:

#1 Jacksonville Jaguars 2-9
#2 Houston Texans 2-9
#3 Atlanta Falcons 2-9
#4 Minnesota Vikings 2-8-1
#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-8
#6 St. Louis Rams (via Washington 3-7)
#7 Cleveland Browns 4-7
#8 Buffalo Bills 4-7
#9 Oakland Raiders 4-7
#10 New York Giants 4-7

If San Francisco beats Washington tonight, the Rams would leapfrog the Buccs and own the #5 pick. Washington’s strength of schedule (0.497) is weaker than Tampa Bay’s (0.571).

The funny thing about that list is Cleveland, Buffalo and Oakland are all one game off a wild card spot in the AFC. Had the Raiders beaten the Tennessee Titans yesterday, they would’ve had possession of the #6 seed.

Instead, they’re in possession of a top-ten pick.

I’m not planning on doing any full first round mock drafts for a while, but here’s an early look at what those teams might plan to do based on the limited information we have.

#1 Jacksonville Jaguars – Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
#2 Houston Texans – Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
#3 Atlanta Falcons – Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
#4 Minnesota Vikings – Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
#6 St. Louis Rams (via Washington) – Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
#7 Cleveland Browns – Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
#8 Buffalo Bills – Re’Shede Hageman (DE, Minnesota)
#9 Oakland Raiders – Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
#10 New York Giants – Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)

But hey, it’s still early.


  1. Mark

    Looking at the list, my first thought was that “Minnesota picked up a point on the road yesterday and have moved out of the relegation zone.” Wrong sport, I guess.

    Houston’s collapse has been shocking for me. I thought they had a young, talented roster, good balance on offense, a dangerous defense. The NFL can be very predictable.

    I assume Atlanta will get things sorted out and come back loaded next year. Clowney would fill a need, I imagine. It must also nice being the only team in the top four who don’t need a quarterback.

  2. Turp

    Mike Evans to STL, nooooo!

    Good list Rob. Do you think the Browns prefer Mariota over Carr at this point?

    • Rob Staton

      I prefer the idea of Carr in round 2. Very wary of Mariota.

      • MJ

        Mariota has a very Kaepernick vibe aka all the physical tools in the world, but doesn’t understand how to play QB and looks really frenetic in the pocket. That in itself is a huge “potential” deal breaker as learning to operate comfortably in the pocket (IMO) isn’t the easiest thing to learn/develop.

        • Rob Staton

          There’s just something about Mariota that worries me.

  3. zh93

    The worse thing for the falcons have been the defense imo. I know that oline hasn’t been great either. I think they will be looking for a pass rusher and they may try and make a move for clowney. They made one for JJones and I wouldn’t put it past them to do it again. Texans reallyjust need to find their identity. Their running backs have been riddled with injuries and that db could stand for some upgrades through the draft. All in all its been an interesting year in the NFL and can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.

    P.S. Go Hawks!

    • Rob Staton

      Definitely agree on the Falcons. The defense is shocking. But Clowney aside, this isn’t a great draft for top end defensive talent.

  4. jianfu

    Nice! As a fairly regular lurker here but a non-Seahawks fan, I sort of miss the days when there was a lot of QB/top prospect talk around these parts. I’m sure you all don’t, but still…

    Anyway, over the past five drafts, the Vikings have had 7 first-round picks, plus one high-second rounder when they traded out of r.1 in 2010 and drafted Chris Cook. So 8 high picks. Of those, 3 have been from the SEC, 3 from the ACC, 1 Golden Domer, and then Matt Kalil from the Pac 12. So there may be a strong preference in their FO toward prospects in the major conferences in the southeastern part of the country. That, and they seem to like younger guys. (In fact, if I can pat myself on the back a sec, I think I predicted they’d target Cordarrelle Patterson last year here, just based off the above habits and team needs.)

    All that is to say, I’m not sure on Anthony Barr. If they end up losing out on Clowney or Bridgewater, I think they’d be more inclined to maybe look at Johnny Manziel or Sammy Watkins (again, just guessing off their habits). Or if they don’t try to resurrect the Fran Tarkenton days with Manziel, I definitely could see them calling on one of the SEC/ACC senior QBs later. )It’s worth noting their current GM Rick Spielman, at least on the outside, isn’t perceived to be in as much hot water as the coaching staff, whom everyone considers all but gone. But while Spielman’s been a key decision-maker going back to the late 90s with the Bears and Dolphins, his big QB acquisitions include trading for AJ Feeley and drafting Christian Ponder at #12. In other words, I’m not confident. _

    Chris Burke of SI.com posted a mock today that had Minnesota taking Derek Carr at #4. I’d be surprised, but who knows?

    • Rob Staton

      As a big Derek Carr fan, I’d be very surprised if he goes that early. I think some writers are reacting too much to his seven touchdown game and unbeaten season.

      • JW

        Patterson and Watkins would make a heck of a duo, and with AP, a nice landing spot for a QB they can scoop up later or on the FA market.

  5. Alex

    Currently in Houston and man, talk about shocking. There is a lot of talk about getting a tackle (Jake Matthews) because of how atrociously bad Derek Newton (Right Tackle) is and hopefully swing him to LT when Duane Brown is done.

    Personally, I would hold off on the tackle pick because if you’re picking that early, you might be able to get to a 1st round caliber tackle at the top of the 2nd. Instead, if you can get the unique talent of Clowney get him and if not, you MUST pick QB. This is a QB driver league and with Matt Schaub finished, there is no hope without a QB. It’s very possible for a quick turnaround assuming the QB can be somewhat good because OL can be patched up (Center- Chris Meyers to Left Tackle- Duane Brown is still strong). If the OL can be patched up through the draft or FA (doubtful since the Texans are capped out), then there is still a strong defense with a offense with weapons everywhere (Hopkins, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster).

    • SunPathPaul

      It seems to me that if they didn’t have their number 1 pick available, say Clowney for example, that they could drop back-trade back just a bit and take Johnny Manziel. They have some talented WR’s, could draft another, and his skill set would work to help counter the bad O-line.

      Not to mention that coming from Texas A&M, Maziel would create a huge stir in the community and sell a LOT of jerseys… Plus I think the kid can play! He is a blast to watch, and I feel he will translate to the NFL…

      Andre Johnson could help mold him, and DeAndre Hopkins as a young guy with talent would be an asset.
      With the new ‘running QB’ trend, he might be a steal come draft day…

      I could also see Minnesota, the Browns, and possibly even the Rams go after Manziel… he is a spark kinda guy.


      • AlaskaHawk

        Your right on with your analysis. There are at least five teams in the low ten that could use a better QB. Manziel and Bridgewater will go in the top 10. Manziel may have some personality issues at the next level, but he can sling the ball. Mariota and Carr should be third round picks, but someone is going to go after them earlier.

        Jacksonville needs a QB, so I don’t think they will pick Clowney. It takes more than a DE to make up a defense but one good QB makes a dramatic difference on the offence. Should they trade down? They could get a mid level first and second rounder, and a first rounder next year. Might be worth it, but then the top 2-3 QBs would be already picked from the next draft.

        If I had first pick I would stand pat and pick Manziel.

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