Overtime: Flashing forward to the 2014 NFL Draft

OvertimeSometimes I try to explain to my friends who are Patriots fans what it’s like to root for the St. Louis Rams. It’s as if I’m speaking to them in Latin. They nod and act like my words are registering, but really, they’re too busy wondering if they could pull off UGGs as well as Tom does.

There is a class divide. Patriots fans wear fancy suits and Rams fans dry clean them. When a Patriots fan gets the flu, they see their doctor. When a Rams fan gets the flu, they face a bottle of Robitussin.

Fans of bad teams are a different kind. As Scott Stapp of Creed would say, we are the “rusted and weathered.”

Part of being a hard-edged fan is knowing how to maneuver around another dreadful season. Hope is fleeting when you live in Jacksonville. One of the ways to keep ahold of that sucker is to always look for reasons to believe.

With every loss comes a more promising opportunity — a higher pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. It’s time to believe in the future.

Here, in mock draft form, are the 10 college players who give broken fans a reason to stay off the ledge.


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1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

The Blaine Gabbert experience has been a treat, but one more year with him at quarterback and Jags fans could successfully mount a lawsuit against the organization.

Bridgewater brings every trait people look for in a passer. He’s put the full spectrum of throws on tape during his time at Louisville. His ability was magnified when he worked over Florida’s secondary last January. Jacksonville needs this man.


2. Oakland Raiders – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Clowney is the best college football player in the nation. He doesn’t throw the ball, though, so he’s unlikely to go first.

Terrelle Pryor might play the Raiders out of top position in the draft, which is sort of hilarious. But the Jaguars are deserving, and Oakland will happily take Julius Peppers version 2.0.


3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

The Josh Freeman situation was bound to explode. The Bucs are a competent quarterback away from playing in January. Boyd can fill that role.

Boyd’s game compares favorably to Russell Wilson. While he’s not the prototype build, he has the kind of size that would’ve made Wilson a first-day selection. The Bucs will have a buffet of quarterbacks to choose from at three, but Boyd is up on the cards right now.


4. Minnesota Vikings – Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

Minnesota fans chanting “Matt Cassel” during the Vikes-Browns game was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. There’s no room for error here with Christian Ponder as their quarterback. They can’t get cute and wait: a third signal caller is being summoned.

Hundley has the traditional makeup of a first round quarterback. The arm and size is there. But he isn’t alone. Marcus Mariota (Oregon), Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), David Fales (San Jose State) and Stephen Morris (Miami) are all in this jumbled mix of “Quarterbacks Not Named Teddy Bridgewater.” The draft process will be riveting.


5. Cleveland Browns – Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame

We are in for a classic sequence of events. Let’s run through this: Browns trade Trent Richardson to ensure they can land an elite quarterback prospect next April; Browns end up with the fifth pick; Browns miss out on the top-three quarterbacks; Browns settle for a nose tackle.

Never change, Cleveland.


6. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

The Steelers wouldn’t let a second run off the clock in this scenario. If Matthews is on the board, he’s coming to Pittsburgh. And he has the talent to hold down the left block for many, many years.


7. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) – Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

Another swift pick. Rams should let the forever-injured Rodger Saffold walk after this year, which opens the door for a Kouandjio entrance. Michigan’s Taylor Lewan is the safer tackle, but the Bama product has immense upside and his flaws should pass with time.


8. New York Giants – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

Now that the Giants can’t storm passers by only sending four rushers, their secondary is getting molly-whopped. Roby is arrogant, has off-the-field issues, and constantly barks at his opponents. He is the complete package at cornerback.


9. Buffalo Bills – Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA

Barr was an H-back two years ago. He flipped to the other side of the ball in 2012 and picked up 13 sacks coming off the edge. He may be a better package than Dion Jordan, who was taken second by the Dolphins last year.

Barr would be a terror in the Bills’ 3-4 scheme. It’s too perfect to actually happen. This is the Buffalo Bills we’re talking about.


10. New York Jets – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Texas A&M’s Mike Evans and USC’s Marqise Lee round out the trio of wide receivers that could all be gone before the 20th pick. Watkins is the rare burner who doesn’t lack size. He shoots off the line like a cannon and can score anytime the ball touches his hands.