1. Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney – DE – South Carolina
Houston has a lot of needs, with QB being the biggest one. However, I really think they’d be making a mistake if they pass on Clowney, who is definitely the best athlete in this draft. The way the Texans are going to beat the Colts is by getting to Luck early and often, and pairing Clowney with Watt will help them do just that. The Texans can grab a QB in round 2 if one falls, or wait until next year and grab a better prospect in Mariota or Winston (if he comes out).
2. St. Louis Rams – Greg Robinson – OT – Auburn
This pick will be traded if any team wants to move up to grab a QB, but for now we’ll assume the Rams sit tight and take the top OT prospect in the draft. Robinson projects better than each of the three OT’s selected in the top five last year. He could become a dominant, franchise LT.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Khalil Mack – DE/OLB – Buffalo
I know the Jags just signed (an old) Chris Clemons, and also brought in (an aging) Red Bryant, but Mack is the BPA here, and would be a smart pick. The Jaguars said they have a 3 year plan to rebuild the organization, and this offseason is year 2. Sucking again in 2014 will hurt their fans, but when Jacksonville has a premier young pass rusher next year, and drafts Mariota or Winston, fans will quickly forget about it. Grabbing Mack, then taking a superior 2015 QB prospect is the right way for the Jags to build.
4. Cleveland Browns- Johnny Manziel – QB – Texas A&M
The Browns have cooled on their Manziel infatuation since Mike Lombardi was fired, but this is still a very likely selection. Manziel’s upside is off the charts and he would bring a lot of excitement to a franchise that desperately needs an explosive element to their offense. Former President George W. Bush was in attendence at Manziel’s pro day, to give you an idea of the excitement surrounding Johnny Football.
5. Oakland Raiders – Teddy Bridgewater – QB – Louisville
The Raiders are reportedly extremely interested in Derek Carr, but if Bridgewater is on the board here, he should be the pick. Bridgewater’s offseason hasn’t been up to “expectations”, but his game tape is solid, and he would represent a major upgrade over anyone the Raiders have had under center in years (and by “years”, I actually mean decades)!
6. Atlanta Falcons – Jake Matthews – OT – Texas A&M
Atlanta was a mess this year. They would almost certainly jump at Clowney or Mack if either one is available at pick #6, but getting Jake Matthews here presents good value at a position of need. Matt Ryan needs more protection and Matthews, like Robinson, might be better than any OT taken in the top of last year’s draft.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Sammy Watkins – WR – Clemson
The Bucs made a highly underrated signing with McCown, who is a smart game manager. The best thing they could do for him would be to surround him with play-makers, who can make McCown look better than he is. Watkins is a dynamic talent who would offer a new dimension to a Bucs offense that needs more talent!
8. Minnesota Vikings – Blake Bortles – QB – Central Florida
When it’s all said and done, Blake Bortles could be the first QB taken and the #1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He’s big, athletic, and has a ton of upside. Projecting as a poor man’s Andrew Luck or Ben Rothlisberger, Bortles would actually fit well as Norv Turner’s vertically-minded QB. While the Vikings could let Bortles sit for a year in favor of Matt Cassel, it seems likely that Bortles would be a day 1 starter.
9. Buffalo Bills – Eric Ebron – TE – North Carolina
EJ Manuel had an up and down season (when he was healthy enough to get on the field), and that’s to be expected from a young QB. The Bills re-signed Scott Chandler, but he’s not really #1 TE material. Ebron provides Manuel with a great outlet, and will help accelerate his development.
10. Detroit Lions – Justin Gilbert – CB – Oklahoma State
While Taylor Lewan would make a ton of sense here, the Detroit Lions have never been about making sense. Justin Gilbert should be the top CB selected in the 2014 NFL Draft and the Lions absolutely need a shutdown CB, so this pick seem very likely.
11. Tennessee Titans – Anthony Barr – OLB – UCLA
The Titans made a great move in hiring Ray Horton to run their D, but that means they’ll run a lot of 3-4/hybrid looks. Barr also shouldn’t fall any further here, and is a great value at a position of major need. This just makes sense!
12. New York Giants – Mike Evans – WR – Texas A&M
There have been reports that some teams prefer Texas A&M’s Mike Evans over consensus top WR Sammy Watkins and it looks like Evans is a top 15 lock. After the Giant’s offense sputtered in 2013 they lost WR Hakeem Nicks, leaving just Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle as legitmate targets for the ever-disappointing Eli Manning. Evans would give the Giants a Jimmy Graham-type pass catcher.
13. St. Louis Rams – Darqueze Dennard – CB – Michigan State
I know the “trendy” pick here is for the Rams to take a Safety, but Dennard as a CB is a better value at a position of need than any of the Safety prospects would be. Dennard, paired with Jenkins and Johnson, would form and excellent CB trio for the Rams, and a talented Safety like Jimmie Ward or Deone Bucannon can be had in the second round.
14. Chicago Bears – Aaron Donald – DT – Pittsburgh
Defensively, the Bears were worse than they have been in a long time. An elite prospect at S, CB, LB, and DL are all in play here, but after signing Lamar Houston and Jared Allen — and losing Henry Melton– a DT like Aaron Donald would be a huge boost for Chicago. Donald destroyed competition at the college level and then proceeded to put on a jaw-dropping Combine performance. While he’s only 6’0″ 285, the recent success of Geno Atkins and Mike Daniels give Donald the chance to be drafted in the top 15.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Taylor Lewan – OT – Michigan
If Lewan makes it to Pittsburgh’s pick, they won’t hesitate to take him immediately. They have been searching for a “Franchise LT” to protect Big Ben ever since he arrived as a rookie, and now that he’s getting older, they finally find one. Lewan will give Big Ben the time he needs to get back to being an “elite” level QB (at least in the category of making plays).
16. Dallas Cowboys – Kony Ealy – DE – Missouri
After embarrassingly mismanaging their cap space/switching to a scheme that doesn’t fit their players, the Cowboys had to release DE/OLB DeMarcus Ware this offseason. While signing Henry Melton was a good start, this defense needs to add pass rushers and Kony Ealy is the best available that fits the Dallas scheme.
17. Baltimore Ravens – Zack Martin – OT – Notre Dame
The Ravens have quite a bit of needs, especailly on defense (S, LB, DL), but they need to protect their ridiculous investment in Joe Flacco first and foremost. Re-signing Monroe was a great start, and Martin represents the last of the OTs that are worthy of going in the first round. Martin’s versatility (can play G or T) will be welcomed along the Ravens OL.
18. New York Jets – Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – S – Alabama
Boy, the Jets have a lot of offensive needs. A WR like Odell Beckham Jr, Marqise Lee, or Brandin Cooks makes sense here, but passing on a potentially elite S like Clinton-Dix just doesn’t make sense, especially with the WR depth in the 2014 NFL Draft. So, Antonio Allen gets replaced with HHCD in this scenario and the Jets may be returning to a dominant D.
19. Miami Dolphins – Marqise Lee – WR – USC
The Dolphins need help at WR, regardless of what happens with Mike Wallace. Lee is a fantastic WR prospect, but drops a bit because of an injury-plagued year that robbed him of some explosiveness. Ryan Tannehill needs quality receiving options, and Lee provides just that.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Zach Mettenberger – QB – LSU
With no obvious offensive fits on the board for Arizona, they make a move for the future. Mettenberger is seen by some as a Philip Rivers-type QB. Because he is injured, Mettenberger would be able to learn the offense from Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians for a year before getting a real shot at starting, which could help his long term development. As it stands, Mettenberger has an unbearably slow relase and even slower feet.
21. Green Bay Packers – CJ Mosley – LB – Alabama
The Packers actually dipped into Free Agency for once! Adding Peppers would seem to be a smart move, but their defense needs a lot of help, especially at S and ILB, where they have two grossly overpaid players in Brad Jones and AJ Hawk, and neither can cover a mobile QB or defend against the pass. CJ Mosley can do that and represents great value for the Packers at #21.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Brandin Cooks – WR – Oregon State
Philadelphia has been reported to have great interest in Oregon St. WR Bradin Cooks. Of course, this could be false information leaking out but with the release of Desean Jackson and Chip Kelly’s maniacal need for speed, we wouldn’t be surprised if Cooks is the pick at #23.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Odell Beckham Jr. – WR – LSU
The Chiefs need playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Jamaal Charles is a great weapon at RB, and Dwayne Bowe is a good WR piece, but the Chiefs need a guy that can stretch the field and be a threat to score everytime he catches a ball. Odell Beckham is that guy. He’ll make Alex Smith look better too.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Calvin Pryor – S – Lousiville
Next to Reggie Nelson, Calvin Pryor could be a huge addition to an already-scary Bengals D. Losing Michael Johnson in FA hurts, but Cincinnati has loaded up on the DL in recent drafts. Pryor can be a Brian Dawkins-like player, so he shouldn’t fall past this point.
25. San Diego Chargers – Kyle Fuller – CB – Virginia Tech
The Chargers have nothing at CB, and Fuller is a CB with lots of size and athleticism, who is also a great fit here. In a division with Peyton Manning, having some capable cover corners is a MUST!
26. Cleveland Browns – Kelvin Benjamin – WR – Florida State
Cleveland gambled on the raw talent of Johnny Manziel at #4 and they gamble on talent again at #26 with Kelvin Benjamin. Although Benjamin didn’t have a great Combine, his play speed and size make him an attractive option. When it’s all said and done, he can be better than Alshon Jeffery. In tandem with Josh Gordon, Benjamin should lift a sad and sorry Browns offesne.
27. New Orleans Saints – Bradley Roby – CB – Ohio State
The Saints really need help at OT, so I could see them drafting Morgan Moses here. However, there are better values than Moses at other postions of need, namely Dee Ford and OLB, and Bradley Roby at CB. The Saints gamble here on Roby, who is talented enough to warrant a top 15 pick, but slides due to an inconsistent Junior campaign.
28. Carolina Panthers – Jason Verrett – CB – TCU
Behind their dominant front 4, plus Luke Kuechley, the Panthers had a good defense in 2013. In 2014, they will need a better secondary. While they have a huge need for WR and OL, Verrett is still the best value at #28 and some see him as the best cover CB in the draft.
29. New England Patriots – Jace Amaro – TE – Texas Tech
Losing Aaron Hernandez, and then having Gronkowski injured this past season really “blew a hole” (too soon?) in the Patriots offense. The Patriots don’t know if Gronk will be ready to start the season, and even if he is, the Pats offense runs well with 2 TEs. While I realize that Amaro is not the same type of TE that Hernandez was, he will allow the Pats to run their offense, and provide excellent insurance in case Gronk continues his troubling trend of recent injuries. I could also see the Pats taking Rashede Hageman here, as Belichick loves his athletic specimens.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Ra’Shede Hageman – DT/DE – Minnesota
San Francisco should be worried about giving QB Colin Kaepernick a huge contract, but their hands are tied. After their recent success, the only option the 49er’s have is to pay their young, mediocre QB/RB. Welcome to cap hell, San Francisco. Justin Smith is getting old and it would be wise to add a top-tier 3-4 DE like Hageman.
31. Denver Broncos – Ryan Shazier – LB – Ohio State
The Broncos know they need to get better on both sides of the ball to keep pace with the NFC elite (yes, NFC, not AFC), and have had a great offseason so far. Adding Shazier to a defense that recently added Ware, Ward and Talib is ridiculous. Well done Broncos, well done.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Morgan Moses – OT – Virginia
Moses should fill in nicely for former Packer and current terrible player Breno Giacomini. While Okung won’t be replaced at LT in the near futuure, giving Russell Wilson more protection is just smart. Moses gives the Seahawks a 6’6″ 315 lb. beast to plug in at RT.
33. Houston Texans – Derek Carr – QB – Fresno State
This would be a dream scenario for the Texans, and because we don’t project trades in this mock, Carr falls here. Texan fans may be having a case of “deja vu” if this happens, but it’s completely unfair to judge Carr off of his older brother’s performance. Carr would be an excellent fit in Houston, and is a fantastic value at the top of round 1. The Texans would win the draft if they came away with BOTH Clowney and Carr!
34. Washington Redskins – Jimmie Ward – S – Northern Illinois
Washington actually has some good, young options like Philip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo at S, but Brandon Meriweather and his illegal hits need to be upgraded. Jimmie Ward isn’t the biggest guy, but has strong coverage skills and can play near the LOS or on the back end.
35. Cleveland Browns – Austin Seferian-Jenkins – TE – Washington
If the Browns really want to help ensure that Johnny Manziel succeeds, they’ll surround him with as much talent as possible. If the draft plays out this way, the Browns will have Josh Gordon and Kelvin Benjamin as their top 2 WRs, and Jordan Cameron and ASJ at TE… that should be enough to make any QB look at least decent, and will provide a huge (literally) safety net and comfort zone for Manziel in his first year as a pro. There are some character concerns with ASJ, but the upside is too much to pass on at this point.
36. Oakland Raiders – Dee Ford – OLB/DE – Auburn
If the Oakland Raiders come out of the 2014 NFL Draft with a franchise QB (Bridgewater) and an explosive pass rusher here in Dee Ford, they would be absolutely thrilled. Ford played really well last year while helping Auburn unpredictably get the BCS National Championship Game. While he’s only 6’2″ 240 lb, he can be lined up at DE or LB and be let loose.
37. Atlanta Falcons – Jeremiah Attaochu – OLB – Georgia Tech
The Falcons loaded up on the DL this offseason, and rightfully so, as they’re moving to a 3-4 base D. With Worrilow and Weatherspoon, the Falcons are set at ILB, but they really don’t have much for OLB. Attaochu, a local product at Georgia Tech, is an intriguing OLB prospect with great size and athleticism, and can bend the edge well. Look for the Falcons’ D to be much-improved in 2014.
38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Xavier Su’a-Filo – OG – UCLA
After releasing veteran OG Davin Joseph the Buccaneers need to find his replacement in the draft. Xavier Su’a-Filo is probably the BPA here too, so it works out well.
39. Jacksonville Jaguars – Allen Robinson – WR – Penn State
The Jaguars really need help on offense (actually everywhere), and the troubling history of Justin Blackmon means that they should definitely take a WR fairly high. Robinson is a physical specimen, and would be an excellent paring to Blackmon. With Robinson and Blackmon in place, the new QB (presumably drafted in 2015) will have some serious weapons to work with.
40. Minnesota Vikings – Trent Murphy – DE – Stanford
Ultimately, the Vikings needed to keep Jared Allen around to continue to be a mediocre defense. Trent Murphy is a solid pass rusher who can be much more in the right scheme and new Head Coach Mike Zimmer consistently employed taller, longer DE’s in Cincinnati.
41. Buffalo Bills – Cyrus Kouandijo – OT – Alabama
This is about as far as a talent like Kouandjio should fall, and considering he recently received positive medical reports, he could end up going much higher. The Bills already have Cordy Glenn, but could use a versatile talent like Kouandjio, who could slide into the LG or RT spot and contribute from Day 1. The Bills gave Manuel some receiving help in round 1, and they take a guy here who will help give him time to get the ball to his open targets.
42. Tennessee Titans – Stephon Tuitt – DE – Notre Dame
Our mock drafts say less about our own preferences than they do about actual NFL team’s preferences. Timmy Jernigan would be a great pick for Tennessee, but as they are moving to a 3-4, we predict them to jump at the size and relative college success of Tuitt. While ND’s Tuitt isn’t a bad option, there are major concerns about his ability to be a successful NFL player.
43. New York Giants – Timmy Jernigan – DT – Florida State
The Giants always love to take DL players high, and Jernigan fits the “MO” here. Losing Linval Joseph hurt, but replacing him with Jernigan can actually be an upgrade.
44. St. Louis Rams – Martavis Bryant – WR – Clemson
The St. Louis Rams have proven that they will go for raw talent early and often in the draft (think Brockers and Jenkins) and Bryant is a big-upside WR with the size to complement Austin Pettis, Greg “greek salad” Salas, Tavon Austin, and Stedman Bailey. Bryant should end up as the best WR of the bunch.
45. Detroit Lions – Davante Adams – WR – Fresno State
The Lions did well to sign Golden Tate, as I always thought he was an underrated WR, and he’ll compliment Calvin Johnson nicely. Tate was a good start, but the Lions still need to add more options to their WR group. Davante Adams is a polished WR with good size and speed, and will round out the Lions WR group quite well.
46. Pittsburgh Steelers – Demarcus Lawrence – OLB – Boise State
Though the Steelers selected Jarvis Jones last year, there is a desperate need for a pass rusher in this defense. Chris Carter and Jason Worilds aren’t going to win you any Super Bowls. So, Lawrence, who is likely the BPA, is the selection here.
47. Dallas Cowboys – Louis Nix III – DT – Notre Dame
The Cowboys need playmakers on defense in the worst way. Kony Ealy was a great start, and there really is no way Nix III falls to the Cowboys, but he’s available here and is a no-brainer. Nix provides a great compliment to Henry Melton, and a DL of Selvie, Melton, Nix III and Ealy is 10 times better than the DL the Cowboys started the offseason with.
48. Baltimore Ravens – Deone Bucannon – S – Washington State
Baltimore took Matt Elam last year but could use a bigger S to pair with him, so Bucannon makes sense here. A tall, physical safety, Bucannon doesn’t present great value at this point in the draft, but gives Baltimore another option to cover deep.
49. New York Jets – Kyle Van Noy – LB – BYU
The Jets need more help on offense, but they’ll never pass up a good value on defense… Never! The Jets need some OLBs, and Van Noy can play both ILB and OLB in a 3-4 defense.
50. Miami Dolphins – David Yankey – OG – Stanford
We really don’t need to rehash old Miami OL jokes now that Richie Incognito is gone. In reality, the Miami franchise is an even bigger joke for consistently losing for so many years. Selecting OG David Yankey won’t fix that. Sorry, Miami fans.
51. Chicago Bears – Marcus Martin – C – USC
While he played alright last year, Roberto Garza is 35 years old. The Bears know that their season goes as Jay Cutler’s fragile mojo goes, and were smart to invest in Kyle Long and Jordan Mills last year, as they paid immediate dividends. Adding Marcus Martin solidifies the Bears’ OL for a long time, and will help give Cutler time to find Marshall, Jeffery and Bennett downfield.
52. Arizona Cardinals – Jackson Jeffcoat – OLB – Texas
Arizona seems to love pass rushers from Texas (Acho, Okafor) and here they get one that should be able to start immediately in Jackson Jeffcoat. The 6’3″ 245lb Jeffcoat has NFL bloodlines and fits a big need for Arizona.
53. Green Bay Packers – Troy Niklas – TE – Notre Dame
The Packers are almost certain to move on from Jermichael Finley, whether he is cleared medically or not. Niklas is a perfect fit for their evolving offense, as he can be an asset in both the running and passing game.
54. Philadelphia Eagles – Carl Bradford – OLB – Arizona State
Connor Barwin has been a disappointment and Trent Cole is getting older, so Philadelphia will want to add another OLB in this draft. Bradford doesn’t have ideal size, but as a partner for Brandon Graham he has a lot of potential.
55. Cincinnati Bengals – Scott Crichton – DE – Oregon State
It was a toss-up here between Crichton and Kareem Martin from UNC, and it really could go either way. The Bengals need to replace Michael Johnson, and while Margus Hunt will be called upon to fill that role, depth is needed. Crichton is versatile, and could see some time at both DE and LB (depending on the situation).
56. San Francisco 49ers – Bashaud Breeland – CB – Clemson
You can bet that the 49er’s aren’t going to go into the season with Eric Wright, Chris Culliver, Perish Cox, and Chris Cook as the only options at CB. But after losing Tarell Brown and cutting Carlos Rodgers, they will need to select one early and here they get Breeland.
57. San Diego Chargers – Antonio Richardson – OT – Tennessee
The Chargers made a great pick last year taking DJ Fluker in the first round. However, they need to continue to surround a resurrected Phillip Rivers with adequate protection, and Richardson has the ability to play LT or RT. The Chargers have two absolute maulers at the Tackle spots with Richardson and Fluker.
58. New Orleans Saints – Joel Bitonio – OT/OG – Nevada
New Orleans should continue to build it’s OL with this draft. While Terron Armstead might stick at LT, adding the versatile and athletic Bitonio would give the Saints options all along the OL.
59. Indianapolis Colts – Brandon Thomas – OG – Clemson
The Colts have a lot of needs, but none more pressing than along the OL. Thomas is a versatile prospect whose best position is probably at Guard, due to his size.
60. Carolina Panthers – Jack Mewhort – OT – Ohio State
Everyone has been freaking out about the Carolina Panthers’ refusal to employ a wide receiver that is worth anything. It’s an issue, for sure. But they also watched Jordan Gross, Geoff Hangartner, and Jeff Byers retire, leaving their OL in shambles. Mewhort is a big (6’6″ 309lb) physical guy that can play LT or RT.
61. San Francisco 49ers – Jordan Matthews – WR – Vanderbilt
The 49ers need more receiving weapons, and while they would probably prefer to add some guys with speed, Jordan Matthews is an excellent value at the end of the second round. Matthews has good size, and actually posesses deceptive speed. Colin Kaepernick must progress as a passer if the 49ers are going to finally get over the hump and win a Super Bowl, so adding Matthews to the receiving group should help with that.
62. New England Patriots – Will Sutton – DT – Arizona State
Vince Wilfork will be sticking around for another year but it could be his last, so the Patriots will want another DT. Besides, the Patriots really don’t have an interior pass rusher, which is what Sutton could do immediately.
63. Denver Broncos – Carlos Hyde – RB – Ohio State
The first RB finally comes off the board! The Broncos lost Moreno in Free Agency to the Dolphins, but they have a great replacement for him in Montee Ball. What the Broncos do not have is a bruising RB, and Carlos Hyde is just that. Anyone watching the Super Bowl saw the Broncos offense get manhandled by the Seahawks. What the Broncos need is a tough, physical RB that can pound defenses and make them pay. A RB combo of Ball/Hyde would be lethal!
64. Seattle Seahawks – Dominique Easley – DT – Florida
Whichever team takes Easley will have to give him time to heal and the Seahawks seem to be one of the only teams that can afford such a luxury. When healthy, Easley was probably a top 10 talent in this draft class.