With injuries decimating both the defensive line and linebacker corps in 2013, it would be hard to fault the Dallas Cowboys decision to bolster these two position groups in the 2014 draft. Add in the advancing age of guys like DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, and Anthony Spencer (all will be 30 or older this season) and the possibility that these guys will not fit into the Dallas budget in 2014, the move to get younger, less expensive, and healthier makes perfect sense. Without further ado, let me present the first of many mock drafts that I intend to do over the coming months.
Trent Murphy DE - Stanford: Nominally a 3-4 outside linebacker in the Cardinal defense, Murphy has proven equally effective at playing with his hand on the ground. He plays as a down lineman about 40-45% of the time in many games. For the 2013 season, he led the nation with 14 sacks and was also third with 21.5 tackles for a loss. Not just a dedicated pass rusher, Murphy is also a solid run stopper as well. He has shown the ability to quickly diagnose the play, shed his blocker, and close in on the ball carrier.
Although he does not have an explosive first move, the former track star does possess sufficient speed for a guy with a 6'6", 261-pound frame. Murphy plays the game with both power and leverage; both the speed rush and a bull rush are key components of his arsenal.
Will Sutton DT - Arizona State: At 6' even and 305 pounds Sutton has demonstrated the ability to create havoc inside. His game features both quickness and overpowering strength. Although Sutton faced double teams on an ongoing basis, he recorded 42 tackles for the Sun Devils this season; including 10.5 for a loss. In addition, he added three sacks and three passes batted down. Playing on a defense that stressed creating turnovers, Sutton recorded both a fumble recovery and a pass interception during the most recent season.
Anthony Steen OG - Alabama: A three year starter on a strong Crimson Tide offensive line, Steen has been the "overlooked" member of that unit. Although his performance this season was hindered by a shoulder injury, he is considered by many to be one of the top five guards in the 2014 draft. Steen is a below the radar kind of player who is quietly efficient in both pass protection and in run blocking. He has a strong anchor in pass protection and rarely makes mistakes in his technique.
Denicos Allen OLB - Michigan State: Allen has started 38 straight games for the Spartans, so his durability is a plus. So is his nose for the football. His 83 tackles on the year led a stingy Michigan State defense. Over his career, Allen has recorded 44.5 tackles for a loss which is good enough to rank him third in school history. The Spartan defensive coaches also liked to use him heavily in their blitz packages. For his career, Allen accounted for 19.5 sacks. That ranks him sixth on State's all time list. At 5'11" and 218 pounds, Denicos Allen was the spark plug that kept a tough Spartan defense in good running order.
Kareem Martin De - North Carolina: A second-team All ACC selection for the second straight season, Martin has proven to be a consistent performer for the Tarheels. He took over the starting role in Chapel Hill toward the end of his freshman season and has not looked back. At 6'6" and 265 pounds, Martin has been a terror for UNC's opponents to deal with. In 2013 he recorded 78 tackles which includes 20 TFLs. He proved his ability to generate pressure on the passer this season by racking up 11 sacks to go along with 14 QB hurries. Martin also forced three fumbles and recovered two others.
For now, I will be limiting my mocks to five rounds. As we move closer to the draft, I'll expand it to include all rounds.
There you have it folks, my first mock draft of 2014. Debate it, tear it apart, do what you will. Let us know your thoughts and why you feel that way. We have somewhere in the vicinity of 125 days to kick the draft around, so lets get the discussion started.
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