It’s way too early to mock the 2014 NFL Draft. We get it. Trouble is, we enjoy doing it, and with the Senior Bowl just wrapping up and the NFL Combine a little ways down the road, the draft and all the teams in the first round continue to be relatively hot topics.
After all, this year our beloved NFL Draft will be held in May, which means we won’t truly have an NFL “off-season” until after it’s over. And since teams join together to start figuring things out again in June anyways, there is a super tiny gap for that “dead period”.
Needless to say, mocks matter, and yet they don’t. But we’re here with our GM caps on, mocking the first round live to help gain insight on what teams might be thinking, what they’ll want or need, and who might take a free fall.
We won’t be doing any trade theories here – just regular live picks for the first 32 selections. Kevin Roberts joins me, and this is what we came up with:
1. Houston Texans – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The debate regarding which player to select first overall has been raging in Houston since the gun sounded on the Texans’ 14th consecutive loss to end the 2013 season. Teddy Bridgewater, Jadeveon Clowney and a few other names have all been thrown out there, and there’s a distinct possibility that Houston winds up trading down, as well. But, when it comes down to it, I don’t believe the Texans will be able to pass-up on Johnny Football. It’s the perfect storm. He’s from Texas. He went to college just an hour-and-a-half from H-Town. He’s one of the more electrifying players in the history of college football, and, unlike prospects like Vince Young and Tim Tebow, Manziel can do everything you want your quarterback to do on the field. He can make the throws, he can improvise with his legs, and he’s the type of fiery competitor you want your franchise player to be.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Redskins) – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
I won’t lie. It’s nice to see I’m not the only one on this site who likes Manziel as the top pick. With that said, I think Manziel going first has the potential to really shake up this draft. I do think the Rams will probably trade this pick, which should mean either Jake Matthews or Jadeveon Clowney go number two off the board. Clowney here is a slightly less likely pick if the Rams stand pat, but even if they do stick here, he’s the top talent and he’d make one of the league’s best pass rushes that much more formidable.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
I was tempted to select Blake Bortles here for the Jags, but can they really pass on Bridgwater? He’s been heralded as the top passing prospect in this class for quite some time now, and he’s the polished type of player at the position the Jaguars sorely need. They have countless holes, of course, so they could go several different ways with this pick. But QBs are at a premium, and they’re getting a gift with Teddy dropping to No. 3. The Blaine Gabbert experiment has been a hilarious/massive failure, as he’s shown zero development in three NFL seasons. It’s time to move on.
4. Cleveland Browns – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
I told you Manziel to Houston messes things up. Now, if Manziels slides, I think the Browns snatch him up here, while it’s also entirely possibly Cleveland trades up to get him or a different player. We’re not in the trade predicting business when it comes to mocks, though, so Watkins is the next guy that makes a lot of sense. After all, the Browns still have a second first rounder that they can scoop a quarterback up with.
5. Oakland Raiders – Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M
I’m sure there’s some raw wide receiver with elite speed and zero ball skills that the Raiders will be drooling over with this pick, but I’m going to (incorrectly) assume that they actually plan on addressing some needs with their choices. Oakland was one of the worst teams in terms of protecting its (anonymous) quarterbacks in 2013, and Matthews is a guy that could realistically go as high as No. 2 overall. Matthews has great footwork, a great blend of strength and size and is about as safe a pick as they come. The Raiders could certainly stand to upgrade at quarterback, but Matthews can be a solidifying force on their O-line for years.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Anthony Barr, DE, UCLA
Atlanta might trade up to nab Clowney or Matthews, but if they’re stuck here at six I think they’re going offensive tackle or defensive end, either way. Greg Robinson or Kahlil Mack could also be in play here, but I think Barr has more upside than Mack. I’ve been leaning toward tackle for Atlanta, but I prefer Matthews and he’s gone. If they can’t get their man, they might as well improve a lethargic pass-rush with one of the best pass-rushers available.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
The Buccaneers were one of the league’s least-effective teams in terms of getting to the quarterback last season, as they ranked 24th in the NFL in sacks. Gerald McCoy has emerged as a force on the interior of the line, but Tampa really lacks an edge rush. Mack was prolific in college at rushing the passer, and could slide in and immediately give the Bucs a boost as an exterior rusher.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
A lot of people think Bortles is a top-five pick and even has a chance to go #1 overall, so seeing him at eight will be tough for many. That’s the nature of the mock, though, as need has pushed Bortles down to the Vikes. With that said, they’ll gladly have him, as they once again try to start over under center.
9. Buffalo Bills – Greg Robinson, T, Michigan
The Bills have a lot of intriguing young talent on offense, they just need a few more guys to help give those players room to run. Robinson was dominant last season for the Wolverines, which led to him deciding to forgo his final season at Michigan and enter the draft. Cordy Glenn is fine on the left side, so Robinson could be able to suit-up opening day as Buffalo’s starting right tackle.
10. Detroit Lions – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
I’m not completely sure Dennard is this draft’s top corner, but I also think corner is fairly deep at the top this year. Either way, Detroit needs to go corner to shore up their shaky pass defense. They could also make a splash by getting Calvin Johnson a running mate like Mike Evans here, too.
11. Tennessee Titans – Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan
The Titans have a few salary cap dilemmas with their starting tackles (Michael Roos and David Stewart) looming, so the Titans could be in for a makeover along the O-line in the near future. Lewan has been overshadowed of late by his teammate, Robinson, but there was a time in the not too distant past when Lewan was being projected as a possible top overall pick.
12. New York Giants – C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The G-Men badly need better pass protection, but they could also really use a leader in the middle of their defense. Jon Beason was a sound addition in the middle of the season last year, but landing Mosley could let him work outside. This move greatly bolsters and already solid defense in terms of talent.
13. St. Louis Rams – Cyrus Kouandijo, T, Alabama
Make it back-to-back former Crimson Tide greats. The Rams already bolstered their potentially-monstrous D-line with Clowney at No. 2 overall, and now they flip to the opposite side and grab Kouandijo at 13. Surely they’d love for one of the other tackles to drop into their laps here, but the Rams are getting an athletic, high-upside player here. It may be a reach considering he’s coming off a fairly mediocre season (by his standards), but a need is a need.
14. Chicago Bears – Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Bears went from a solid defense to one that couldn’t do anything at times in 2013. A huge part of that had to do with losing Henry Melton in the middle and a ton of depth along their defensive line. They’ll get healthier going into 2014 but adding talent and depth to their line. Besides, Melton is a free agent.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Gilbert and Dennard will duke it out to determine which corner will be the first selected, and with Dennard off-the-board already, the Steelers will happily pluck Gilbert out of Stillwater. Pittsburgh is in need of some dynamic playmaking on its defense, especially with Troy Polamalu getting up there in years. Gilbert fits the bill.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Even if the Ravens do hold onto Dennis Pitta, they badly need another play-maker in their passing game. Jacoby Jones is a free agent and bombed as the #2 option, while Baltimore sorely missed Anquan Boldin. Evans has the size and ball skills to make an impact as a rookie and should develop into a terror within 2-3 years.
17. Dallas Cowboys – Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
HaHa Clinton-Dix is also an intriguing option for the Cowboys here, but Nix fills a bigger need. He’s a potential terror on the interior of the defensive line, and he’s the type of big, run-stuffing fat guy Dallas has sorely lacked on their line. The Cowboys failed to address the defensive line at all last year in the draft, and they’re going to need additional help there with Jason Hatcher likely leaving as a free agent.
18. New York Jets – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
New York probably wants Mike Evans here, but they’ll have to trade up to get him. They could also opt for Marqise Lee, but if Evans isn’t there I think they go after a big target at tight end, instead. Ebron is the total package at tight end and thanks to his athleticism is probably the best tight end available. New York can’t keep relying on guys like Kellen Winslow and Jeff Cumberland.
19. Miami Dolphins – Zack Martin, T/G, Notre Dame
The Dolphins had offensive line issues even before the whole Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin controversy, so they’ll surely be looking to shore things up up front via the draft. Tackles were flying off-the-board pretty early, but here they’ll have a chance to grab the versatile Zack Martin out of Notre Dame. Miami needs help at both guard AND tackle, so Martin is a fit no matter where they need him most.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
Arizona is aging on the edge of their 3-4, so now might be a good time to beef up their pass-rush. Murphy isn’t a freak athlete, but he was insanely productive and he has a motor that never stops. AZ also could add to their 0-line or make a splash with a running back, but beefing up their pass-rush makes a lot of sense.
21. Green Bay Packers – Ra’Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota
The Packers’ defense was porous last season, and DT B.J. Raji is a free agent that’ll likely command a fairly sizable contract. Regardless of whether or not Raji returns, Green Bay needs to put some capable defensive bodies on the field. Hageman isn’t built as rotundly as your standard DT, but he’s versatile enough to slide around and play on the exterior of the line, as well.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Philly could keep adding pieces to their still transitioning 3-4, but wide receiver actually is a bit of need. It becomes an even bigger need if they don’t bring back one or both of Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin, who are free agents. Chip Kelly’s system is about speed, too, and Lee has the type that kills.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Chiefs completely whiffed on the Jonathan Baldwin pick a couple of years ago, so they’re still sorely lacking something in the receiving game to complement Dwayne Bowe. Cooks won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver last season for the Beavs, so he must be good, right? He’s small for a pass-catcher at just 5’10”, but is electrifying in the open field and can also contribute in the kick return game.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – HaHa Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Taylor Mays and Roy Williams. That’s the kind of talent the Bengals have been dealing with at safety over the past several years. They can consider themselves blessed if Clinton-Dix actually falls this far. They could also consider Calvin Pryor or upgrade on the weak side at linebacker with Ryan Shazier.
25. San Diego Chargers – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
I’m a complete homer here, so as a former Horned Frog myself, I’m more than happy to choose Verrett for my local team. The Chargers’ issues in the secondary are major, so Verrett fills an extreme need. He’s a physical corner that isn’t afraid to rush the line of scrimmage and make tackles himself. I think he’s the best corner in the nation, and that San Diego is getting themselves a stud here.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Colts) – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
I also like LSU’s Zach Mettenberger here, but Carr is the pure pure talent and probably has just as much upside. The Browns could take the QB plunge much earlier, but if they don’t, I still think they find a guy they like with their second first rounder. They could also look at running back or some defensive help here if they already have their passer.
27. New Orleans Saints – Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Missouri
The Saints could surely go wide receiver here, as Jimmy Graham is about the only pass-catcher on that offense that was doing anything last year, but they’ve also got a pressing need at pass-rusher. Ealy is probably the best player on the board at this point, and he gives New Orleans a nice end rusher to plug-in opposite Junior Galette on the line.
28. Carolina Panthers – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Benjamin is raw and probably could have used another year of college to polish his game, but here he is for the plucking. Steve Smith is aging and not a true #1 receiver anymore, while Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn are both not the answer and also free agents. Benjamin is an investment for the future that will hopefully help stretch the defense as a rookie.
29. New England Patriots – Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Rob Gronkowski has suddenly become injury-riddled over the last year, and, other than him, the Patriots have exactly zero serviceable tight ends on the roster. While the young pass-catchers gradually improved as last season progressed, Tom Brady was clearly missing that safety valve tight end that he had with both Gronk and Aaron Hernandez. Amaro may well be the best receiving TE in this entire class, so this is a potential steal for Belichick and friends.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame
San Francisco is getting a little long in the tooth on the defensive line, while it never hurts to add to a strength. They could go corner here, too, but I like them to add depth to the trenches here.
31. Denver Broncos – Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
Champ Bailey and Quentin Jammer are old, Chris Harris just tore his ACL, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has said he’d consider retiring from the NFL if Denver wins the Super Bowl. The Broncos’ holes are almost all on the defensive side of the ball, and the overhaul of the secondary could begin with the drafting of Purifoy out of Florida.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
I just think Seattle needs weapons on offense. Sidney Rice is likely a cap casualty, Golden Tate is a free agent, Percy Harvin can’t really be trusted and Zach Miller isn’t getting it done at tight end. Seferian-Jenkins is a bit raw but he’s an elite athlete with an uncapped ceiling.
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