AFC South: 2014 Mel Kiper mock 3.0

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Jaguars

March, 13, 2014
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s prediction in his third mock draft Insider that the Jacksonville Jaguars will take defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming draft is not surprising. He made the same forecast in his first two mock drafts. It's the pick that makes the most sense.

The Jaguars do need a quarterback and in Kiper's scenario Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles are available, but general manager David Caldwell has dropped several hints that he doesn't believe any of them are a franchise quarterback.

Caldwell has said rookie quarterbacks generally aren't ready to play right away. There are exceptions, such as Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan, but those players didn't leave school early and played in pro-style offenses in college. He also has said Chad Henne, who signed a two-year extension last week, can keep the team afloat with better offensive line play and more weapons.

The Jaguars worked on both of those issues early in free agency by signing guard Zane Beadles and running back Toby Gerhart. They are expected to add at least one more offensive lineman and possibly a receiver before the draft, as well.

So Clowney, whom many regard as the best player in the draft, is the natural pick. He fills an immediate need and upgrades a pass rush that finished last in the NFL in each of the past two seasons. He's ridiculously athletic and exceptionally quick (4.53 40-yard dash, including a 10-yard split of 1.56 seconds) for a 6-foot-5, 266-pound end.

Some have concerns about his work ethic and motivation, but those issues are being overblown. Clowney is a freak who can dominate a game.

And consider this: Since the Jaguars will play six games against the AFC South it's important the team is built to handle those opponents. The Indianapolis Colts are the best team in the division because of Luck so the Jaguars need to be able to deal with them twice a year.

Clowney is the first piece.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Texans

March, 13, 2014
It was their biggest game of the season and he was the best player on the field.

When Buffalo played Ohio State in the kind of game I usually prefer to ignore, one player made that impossible: Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack.

The Buckeyes won the game 40-20, but Mack was almost entirely responsible for keeping the game close. After Ohio State jumped to a 23-0 lead, Buffalo fought back, cutting their deficit to just 10 points, with the help of an interception Mack caught and returned 45 yards for a touchdown. He also notched seven solo tackles and 2.5 sacks. He might have had another sack, on which he also forced a fumble, but was called for a penalty on the play.

In the months since, Mack has risen through draft boards, including ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper's.

In Kiper's Mock Draft 3.0, Insider the draft guru has the Houston Texans taking Mack first overall. If it happened, it would make two season in a row that the first overall pick was a small-school product.

This version has the quarterbacks waiting -- Blake Bortles is the first at the fourth pick with Johnny Manziel going even later.

The quarterback versus pass-rusher discussion was resolved in a defensive direction the last time the Texans had the first overall pick in the draft. That was 2006 when they selected Mario Williams instead of local favorite Texas quarterback Vince Young or Southern California's dynamic running back Reggie Bush. Don't read too much into that -- or the fact that the franchise's first No. 1 overall pick was a quarterback who floundered (David Carr). The only decision-maker who remains from those years is team owner Bob McNair.

What's interesting here, though, is that Kiper didn't go with the pass-rusher everyone assumes is the top choice. In this version of his mock draft, even Jadeveon Clowney had to wait.

Analyzing Kiper 3.0: Titans

March, 13, 2014
Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s pick for the Tennessee Titans in two earlier mock drafts, moves up two spots in version 3.0. Insider

This time around Kiper projects UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr to Tennessee. Barr has become the standard default pick for the Titans.

I like this pick better that Lewan for Tennessee.

The Titans are going to be a hybrid defense, shifting toward a 3-4. Akeem Ayers translates as does Kamerion Wimbley, but Wimbley is expensive with a $7.8 million cap charge and a $6 million base. He may need to take a pay reduction to stick around. Cutting him would save $2.4 million.

Barr projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker and has a connection to the Titans. New linebackers coach Lou Spanos was Barr’s defensive coordinator at UCLA.

Barr is agile and fast and has excellent pass-rushing attributes that include long arms and great athleticism. If he's on the board at No. 11, I think he's a guy the Titans will seriously consider in the spot.

Kiper has Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley still on the board when the Titans pick, and I see them as possibilities as well.