NFL Mock Draft
The 2014 NFL Draft is about to get underway on Thursday, May 8th. It will feature seven rounds with the final day of the draft ending on Saturday, May 10th. This is a very exciting draft class with plenty of talent at the skill positions. In fact, there could be several quarterbacks going in the first round, and I wouldn’t be surprise to see more receivers get selected in the first round than in any year prior.
Offensive and defensive linemen usually make up the majority of the first-round selections, but that is likely to change this year. However, there appears to be a plethora of offensive tackles with first-round talent as well. Many consider it the second-most important position in the game behind the quarterback. Let’s take a look at who I have going where in the first round with my 2014 NFL Mock Draft.
1. Houston Texans, Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
If there was ever a year that a team might trade out of the No. 1 pick, it could be in 2014. The Texans’ biggest need is at quarterback, but there isn’t a player at that position in this draft that is rated highly enough to go No. 1 overall. However, since this is a mock draft assuming there will be no trades, I’ll say that the Texans will go with the best prospect in the draft in Clowney. He rates as one of the best defensive line talents ever, and he also fills a need for Houston at outside linebacker.
2. St. Louis Rams, Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Robinson fits perfectly here. He is a huge talent at the position of the biggest need for the Rams. Robinson will almost certainly become an All-Pro tackle in this league. He does have some room for improvement in the passing game as he’s only a year removed from playing right guard. His upside is undeniable.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars, Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Mack is simply a playmaker. He was arguably the best defensive player in all of college football last year, but he went under the radar playing in Buffalo. He would fill the “Leo” role in Jacksonville’s defense better than anyone in this year’s class. It is a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end, and like Clowney, Mack knows how to get after opposing quarterbacks. He also has a knack for stripping the ball when he gets there, creating turnovers.
4. Cleveland Browns, Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The biggest need for the Browns is at quarterback, so I look for them to address it with the No. 4 overall pick. Many feel Manziel is a risky pick, and it’s true, but he also has more pure talent than any other quarterback in this year’s draft. His off the field problems and potential to get hurt are concerns, but he never missed a game in college despite throwing caution to the wind and running everywhere. Manziel would also give Cleveland fans something to be excited about going forward, and he doesn’t have to start right away. Backup Brian Hoyer did a fine job last season and could be a bridge to Manziel.
5. Oakland Raiders, Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Raiders certainly need a quarterback, but they may feel comfortable with veteran Matt Schaub for this year at least. He is an upgrade over what they had last year. What would help Schaub is adding a player like Sammy Watkins, who is the best receiver in this year’s class. Wide receiver is certainly a position of need in Oakland as Denarius Moore and Rod Streeter combine to form one of the worst starting duos in the league. James Jones was a decent add, but he was a beneficiary of playing with Aaron Rodgers, too. Watkins will scare opposing defenses, and that’s something Oakland needs.
6. Atlanta Falcons, Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Matt Ryan was sacked a career-high 44 times in 2013. Tackle is a top priority for the Falcons because of it. Nobody has a better blood line than Jake Matthews, and he’ll almost certainly be one of the best offensive tackles in the game before long. He has the versatility to play either tackle spot, which could be good for the Falcons considering they are uncertain on whether to keep Sam Baker on the left side or move him to the right.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
No receiver in this class is better at winning 50-50 balls than Evans. He can also block and run after the catch, and his catching radius is massive due to his size and wingspan. The Bucs need a starter opposite Vincent Jackson to take some of the attention away from him. Evans would certainly do that and more. You also have to consider that Jackson is 31 years old, so his best years are behind him.
8. Minnesota Vikings, Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
While the Vikings like what they got out of Matt Cassel last year in limited action, they must realize he’s not the long-term solution. This would be a good spot for Bortles, who many feel is the best quarterback prospect in the draft. If need be, he could learn behind Cassel and Christian Ponder. He has the perfect size for a quarterback and underrated mobility that will work well in the NFL.
9. Buffalo Bills, Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Right tackle is the top need for the Buffalo Bills. They could elect to move Cordy Glenn from the left side to the right if they find a better left tackle in the draft. Either way, I look for them to spend the No. 9 pick on a tackle, and I’m guessing it’s going to be Taylor Lewan out of Michigan. The Bills allowed 48 sacks in 2013, which was tied for the fourth-most in the league.
10. Detroit Lions, Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
The Lions still need a solid No. 2 receiver opposite Calvin Johnson to take pressure off of him. In Beckham Jr., they would get the guy they have been looking for for all of these years. Sure, they signed Golden Tate this offseason, but I’m not sold on him and believe he was more of a product of the system in Seattle. Beckham Jr. is a great route-runner and is explosive with the ball in space.
11. Tennessee Titans, Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Alterraun Verner is coming off a career year, and as a result, the Titans could not afford to keep him around. Now, they are potentially looking at having to start a young player like Blidi Wreh-Wilson at corner with the way the roster is currently constructed. That’s why I look for the Titans to address their biggest need early and pick up Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State. He is the best cornerback on the board, hands down.
12. New York Giants, Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Giants lost tight end Brandon Myers to Tampa Bay this offseason. While he wasn’t nearly as good in New York as he was in Oakland, the fact of the matter is that Eli Manning is lacking a starting-caliber tight end. He could really benefit from having a guy like Eric Ebron to get the ball to. That’s especially the case now that Hakeem Nicks is no longer around, and Victor Cruz is coming off an injury-plagued 2013 campaign.
13. St. Louis Rams, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Rams have a big need at free safety to pair with strong safety T.J. McDonald. He isn’t the physical player that McDonald is, but he is strong at coming down hill and making tackles, and he’s certainly going to be an upgrade in coverage over incumbent starter Rodney McLeod. Clinton-Dix is a centerfielder who can track down fly balls, which will be useful considering the pass rush the Rams generate from their dominant defensive line.
14. Chicago Bears, Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Donald has been rapidly moving up draft boards in recent weeks. While he could be gone by the time the Bears pick, they would be foolish not to take him if he’s still around. He’d be the perfect fit as a 3-technique defensive tackle in the Bears’ Tampa 2 scheme. He has a knack of disrupting offensive backfields due to his tremendous snap anticipation and first-step quickness.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers, Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Justin Gilbert and Kyle Fuller are both fits here at cornerback, which is a top need for the Steelers. However, I believe they go with Fuller because they tend to prefer more physical corners like him over guys like Gilbert who aren’t as good in press coverage and are poor tacklers. The 34-year-old Ike Taylor had to accept a $4.25 million pay cut to stay in Pittsburgh, which tells you how awful he was last year.
16. Dallas Cowboys, Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Cowboys need help all over their defense. However, in this scenario, I like them to go for a starting safety opposite leading tackler Barry Church in the secondary. He is an intimidating safety who does his best work in the box but has proven to be more than capable of handling deep-half zone and deep-third coverage. Pryor’s willingness to deliver the knockout blow will have opposing receivers fearful.
17. Baltimore Ravens, Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Since Michael Oher left in free agency, and the Ravens were horrible at running the football last year, they need an instant starter at right tackle. Sure, Martin could eventually end up at guard, which is another need position, but he projects as an NFL tackle. His awareness and toughness make him a versatile player who will be a starter in this league for years to come.
18. New York Jets, Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Receiver and tight end are both big need areas for the Jets even with the addition of Eric Decker in free agency. They need players who can stretch the field vertically, and Cooks could not be a better fit. He had the fastest 40-yard dash time among wide receivers at 4.33. He is a tremendous route-runner, and he’s obviously tough to bring down after the catch with that speed.
19. Miami Dolphins, C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
While the Dolphins have a big need along the offensive line, I believe the options in this scenario would be a reach for them. They also need a pass-rusher, but guys like Anthony Barr and Kony Ealy would be a reach here. That leaves the Dolphins looking to draft the best player available, which would be Mosley. Linebacker is not a huge need, but he would instantly make the team better, which means something in this league.
20. Arizona Cardinals, Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
I love this fit for the Cardinals. They must find Carson Palmer’s eventual replacement, and I believe Carr could prove to be the steal of the draft. The Cardinals don’t have massive needs anywhere, so they could be willing to roll the dice on a guy like Carr in the first round. Palmer turns 35 during the 2014 season. The only knock on Carr is that his brother was a failure in the NFL, but I don’t see him being one, too.
21. Green Bay Packers, Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
The Packers have a big need at outside linebacker and could fill that void by pairing A.J. Hawk with fellow Buckeye Ryan Shazier. He is more of the modern linebacker who will play at a lighter weight than most but can shoot gaps and get upfield quicker than most bigger linebackers. He has tremendous speed from sideline to sideline, which means he’s also good in coverage. He just seemed to play faster than everyone else at Ohio State.
22. Philadelphia Eagles, Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
While the Eagles could fill other needs with guys like Anthony Barr and Marqise Lee, I look for them to go with Gilbert. He is a great value at this point and fulfills another need. While not very physical, his combination of size and speed goes great with his ball skills and playmaking. He has a knack for returning touchdowns both on interceptions and in the return game, which makes him an added weapon for the Eagles now that DeSean Jackson is gone.
23. Kansas City Chiefs, Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Chiefs really need to strike it rich in Round 1 because they don’t have a pick in Round 2 thanks to the Alex Smith trade, which worked out pretty well for them. Now, they need to find another weapon for Smith. Lee could prove to be a steal after a down junior season in which he battled through injury, and the team had poor quarterback play. He firmly established himself as one of the top receivers in college football in his sophomore year, and that’s the guy that the Chiefs would be getting in my opinion.
24. Cincinnati Bengals, Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The top need for the Bengals is at cornerback. Terence Newman and Adam Jones are both north of 30, and Leon Hall is nearly there and is coming off yet another injury-plagued season. Sure, Dre Kirkpatrick could improve, but he’s looking more and more like a bust. While undersized for his position, Verrett plays big enough to make up for it. He sticks to receivers like glue in man-to-man coverage due to his change-of-direction ability and tremendous top-end speed.
25. San Diego Chargers, Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Barr has been sliding down draft boards because his all-around game may not be up to par. However, there’s no denying that he could be one of the top pass-rushers in the league. Dwight Freeney is past his prime, Melvin Ingram is returning from a torn ACL, and Jarret Johnson isn’t likely to be around in 2015 due to his $7.5 million cap number. The few knocks on Barr are that he plays with too much finesse and he’s not physical enough, but there’s no denying the guy can get to opposing quarterbacks with the best of ‘em.
26. Cleveland Browns, Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Cleveland could benefit from adding another weapon opposite Josh Gordon to play with tight end Jordan Cameron. A guy like Benjamin would really put the Browns in a good position. They have already drafted a quarterback in Manziel according to my mock, and now he would be getting a guy similar to Mike Evans at Texas A&M. Benjamin will win the majority of 50-50 balls because of his physicality, but he does need to improve from a technical standpoint with better route-running. Manziel’s improvisation skills would go well with Benjamin.
27. New Orleans Saints, Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
The Saints have been getting by with average receivers outside of Marques Colston and tight end Jimmy Graham for years. Not only does Latimer provide size, he would also give the Saints a speed threat that they currently do not have on the roster. With the defense taking a big step forward last year, it only makes sense to give Brees some more help on the offensive side of the ball.
28. Carolina Panthers, Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
The Panthers’ biggest need is along the offensive line in protecting Cam Newton. They could actually use two tackles, and I look for them to start by adding a starting-caliber one in Moses from Virginia. They also have needs at receiver and cornerback, but the depth of both of those positions is pretty great in this year’s draft, so I look for the Panthers to add a player who can start right away at tackle.
29. New England Patriots, Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Vince Wilfork is 32 years old and coming off a torn Achilles. Tommy Kelly is 33 years old. The rookies got a lot of playing time last year for New England, and they did about as good as could be expected, but they clearly aren’t long-term solutions like Hageman would be. He is a one time tight end recruit who plays with tremendous athleticism for his 310-pound frame.
30. San Francisco 49ers, Jordan Mathews, WR, Vanderbilt
Perhaps the most underrated player in the entire draft, Matthews could prove to be a steal in the last first round. The 49ers really need receiver help to add to Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin. Matthews had a combined 206 catches, 2,800 yards and 15 touchdowns in his last two seasons at Vanderbilt in the best conference in the country. He did that despite being the only real weapon on his team at receiver, which meant that every opponent knew that the Commodores were trying to get him the ball. He’s going to be a great one in this league.
31. Denver Broncos, Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Given the fact that the Broncos are likely to play from the lead in almost every game, they have a need for additional depth and pass-rushing along the defensive line. While not the most physical of defensive ends, Ealy has the kind of versatility and ability to get after the quarterback that most NFL teams covet.
32. Seattle Seahawks, Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
It’s hard to find many weaknesses for the Seahawks, but depth along the defensive line would certainly be one of them. There is no obvious in-house replacement for cap casualty Red Bryant, who was a two-down edge setter at 6-foot-4 and 323 pounds. Tuitt, at 6-5 and 304 pounds, would be a good fit as a 5-technique defensive end in Seattle’s scheme. Many have him as a top-15 prospect based on his talent, and the only reason he falls this far is due to questions surrounding his motor and consistency. Pete Carroll knows how to get the most out of his players, and he would do the same with Tuitt.