Mock 0.5: Two More, Two Left
And then there were two.
Only two slots in the picking order for the 2014 NFL Draft remain undetermined, and we'll have to wait a couple of weeks to sort that out. There's the small matter of playing the Super Bowl before we can resolve everything we need to know.
But we saw a few things in Sunday's conference championship games that give us a sense of the draft directions for both New England and San Francisco. You can read about the first 28 picks of the first round in the first installments of our unfolding first Mock of 2014. But the next two picks of the first round will be:
29. Patriots: Ra'Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota
After oogling over the arsenal Peyton Manning had to throw to, it's understandable that Patriots fans would be clamoring for an X receiver prototype. With the depth of talent available at receiver in this draft, there's no need to reach for one here. Instead, they add a playmaker along the defensive line, a prospect who possesses the trait that perhaps Bill Belichick treasurers above all else: versatility. Hageman could play anywhere along the defensive line. At 6-foot-6, 311 pounds, he could play nose or end in a 3-4 or tackle in a 4-3, and his presence gives Belichick more flexibility than he's had in the past few seasons. Hageman is tough against the run, but his real upside is the power rush he'll bring to complement Chandler Jones, who has blossomed into a dangerous pass rusher.
30. 49ers: Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
San Francisco didn't make it back to the Super Bowl, but it still may be the most complete team in the NFL. That gives the 49ers a rare opportunity to draft for finishing touches rather than building bocks. And it seems evident that the one thing missing from this offense is a true stretch-the-field threat. Anquan Boldin remains one of the league's most reliable possession receivers. And while we certainly don't agree with Richard Sherman's assessment of Michael Crabtree as being merely "mediocre," he would benefit from having a complementary receiver who can stretch the defense vertically. Not only would it create space for Crabtree and Boldin and Vernon Davis, it would keep safeties from sneaking up to stop Frank Gore or shadow Colin Kaepernick. Richardson showed no lingering issues from the knee injury that forced him to miss the 2012 season; seven of his school-record 13 receptions of 50 yards or longer came this season. He is exactly what the doctor ordered in San Francisco. He'd add a big-play dimension to a passing game in need of one.