The time has come to unleash my final 2014 mock draft. This is a strong NFL draft class and this is guaranteed to be a crazy draft in terms of trades, much like 2012 when we saw numerous trades inside the top ten selections alone.
I normally never predict trades, but I wanted to change it up this year because I’m quite certain that a few teams will be making moves and I feel more confident than in previous years. Not to mention, the whole part of mock drafts is to project not only where players should go, but what teams should move for.
The trades seem quite realistic in my book and I did not go too crazy, but some of these are just interesting enough to make you speculate.
Take a peek at how I think the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft could play out:
1. Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB, South Carolina
The Texans may want to trade down, but there’s no reason why they need to. If they don’t get the essential ransom that they will want for the #1 overall pick, they should be fine selecting the best player in the draft.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from STL, thru WAS) – Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
Tampa Bay is rumored to move up to want Sammy Watkins and Johnny Manziel. Perhaps they will, perhaps they won’t. But if you’re Lovie Smith, you have to be loving the thought of adding Khalil Mack on the strong side of this defense that has a lot of potential.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
This is a no-brainer here with the uncertainty of Justin Blackmon and the lack of play maker this team has offensively. Watkins is a game changer and if Blackmon is re-instated, this could be a huge 1-2 punch at receiver.
4. Detroit Lions (from CLE) – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Detroit really wants to put up 40+ points a game, so why not grab another big, physical receiver that can make plays down field and in the red zone. Trading up with Cleveland who will want to trade back after losing their guy in Watkins makes sense.
5. Oakland Raiders – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
No QB here considering I don’t fully believe that Matt Schaub is “that” bad. Evans and Watkins are gone, so why not protect your investment in Schaub and your 2nd/3rd round investment of a QB.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Matthews is an immediate upgrade over Sam Baker, and a franchise left tackle. Atlanta is in a great spot at six.
7. St. Louis Rams (from TB) – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
I’m not fully buying into the rumors that the Rams love Manziel, but if they find a dance partner and move down, why not take a chance while also adding more picks?
8. Minnesota Vikings – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Vikings are seemingly in love with this guy. I think Bortles fits very well here, but Matt Cassel could have played worse and defensively this team needs help, especially on the DL with the loss of Jared Allen.
9. Buffalo Bills – Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Martin is a stud and the Bills could potentially have bookend tackles with he and Cordy Glenn. I prefer Glenn on the right side anyway or as a left guard, but you can’t be upset protecting your young quarterback in E.J. Manuel.
10. Cleveland Browns (from DET) – Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
As a Browns fan, taking a QB is not ideal at #4 overall. But Bortles is a big time talent and while I would also love Bridgewater, the Browns cannot be disappointed grabbing their future signal caller while letting Brian Hoyer man the spot for 2014, at least to start.
11. Tennessee Titans – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Dennard is a physical corner with a lot to offer and the Titans missed out on Blake Bortles. Sure they could go with a Derek Carr or Bridgewater, but Carr is not a first round talent in my eyes and they really, really need help on the outside of the defense.
12. New York Giants – Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Despite playing on the outside, Shazier is versatile enough to play inside if need be. Regardless of where he plays, he is all over the field. The Giants have struggled finding reliable outside linebacker help and Shazier is a prize.
13. Baltimore Ravens (from STL) – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Ravens move up with St. Louis in an effort to steal Ebron away from the Bears and Steelers. Ebron is an instant mis-match on most line backers and will provide Joe Flacco with a much needed receiving threat.
14. Chicago Bears – Hasean Clinton-Dix, SAF, Alabama
The Bears secondary looks to struggle in the coming years and they need safety help immediately. Clinton-Dix is the most NFL ready safety in this draft and is a plug and play.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The Steelers need help in coverage and Fuller is a very well rounded corner being able to play physical in the AFC North, while having the coverage skills to be a #1 corner for the Steelers in the long run.
16. Dallas Cowboys – Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA
How about a speedy edge rusher to replace DeMarcus Ware? While Barr isn’t on the same level as Ware coming out, the potential is unlimited considering he was a running back just a few short years ago and quickly adapted to being a pass rusher in a strong Pac-12 conference.
17. St. Louis Rams (from BAL) – Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Rams have the front seven to dominate and the corners to cover, but their safety help over the top and in run support is adequate at best, and that’s me being nice. Pryor is a stud and could realistically go before Clinton-Dix.
18. New York Jets – Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
The Jets love Beckham, and while I think they will have to trade up to get him, I’m quite sure that they’ll land their man.
19. Miami Dolphins – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Dolphins offensive line is in shambles and they still feel that Ryan Tannehill is their man. They need help at receiver as well, among many other positions, but getting a surefire left tackle like Lewan would be a huge boost, especially if he does make the (unlikely) slide to 19.
20. Arizona Cardinals – C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Losing Karlos Dansby hurts and the medical concerns for Mosley are legitimate, but if he can stay healthy he’s a top 15 player and a stud.
21. Green Bay Packers – Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
People will scream reach, but Ward has the range to be a starter in the NFL from day one. His range is comparable to Minnesota’s Harrison Smith who many felt was a reach a couple seasons ago and he’s worked out quite well. Green Bay must improve their secondary if they want to compete in the NFC.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Gilbert falling to 22 seems unlikely, but there’s a lot of talent in the top end of this draft. The fact of the matter is going into the season with Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams is a bit risky in a pass happy NFC East.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Dwayne Bowe can play and Donnie Avery has shown flashes, but there is too much inconsistency at the receiver position in Kansas City. Sure Alex Smith isn’t Peyton Manning, but he proved that he can win, and with another play maker offensively, the Chiefs could be a deep playoff contender thanks to that defense.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
The Bengals would love to go cornerback here, but Moses is a very good grab at 24. Andrew Whitworth is aging and may be better off moving inside after filling in at left guard due to injuries in 2013. Moses could step in and start from day one.
25. San Diego Chargers – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
No explanation for this pick is needed. Louis Nix III makes a lot of sense, but his stock has dropped. Roby is a physical corner with excellent game speed that has top 15 potential. This secondary is improving, but they could use a potential #1 corner.
26. Cleveland Browns – Marqise Lee, WR, USC
We saw Lee’s production drop in 2013 for multiple reasons, but primarily the loss of Matt Barkley and Robert Woods hurt the most. Lee matched up with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron makes for an enticing offensive match-up and with Brian Hoyer in 2014 and Blake Bortles taking over at some point down the stretch, the Browns offense could start looking similar to the Atlanta Falcons of recent years.
27. New Orleans Saints – Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
Ford is a perfect fit for Rob Ryan’s defense that likes to go a bit hybrid from time to time. While he’s not a true 34 pass rusher, his motor and play style will force Ryan to get him on the field while this defense works to actually put pressure on the quarterback. Wide receiver is a strong option here as well.
28. Carolina Panthers – Ju’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee
Carolina’s tackle situation is embarrassing, but at least Byron Bell could man the right tackle position for another season. Nate Chandler on the other hand is not the answer at left tackle and while losing Steve Smith hurts greatly, the receiver class is deep enough to get talent in the coming rounds, not to mention they signed Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery who aren’t as bad as their stats indicate.
29. New England Patriots – Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
Two ACL tears won’t prevent the Patriots from getting a guy who could dominate when healthy. This is a team of risk takers and while Ra’Shede Hageman makes so much sense here, Easley is the better player when healthy.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
Ellington is a guy that can sneak through the middle of the field and find holes to help Colin Kaepernick. One of the best receivers in college football while the quarterback is scrambling, Ellington, while seemingly a reach, could be just the spark that the 49ers need from the wide receiver position.
31. Denver Broncos – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Bridgewater will find his way into the first round of this draft because he’s simply too talented not to. While the Broncos are in “win-now” mode and this pick is quite unlikely, there’s no reason why grabbing him to sit behind Peyton Manning for a season could be a bad idea. Simpy put, Bridgewater is a cerebral quarterback with one heck of an arm that could do big things down the road with this receiving corps.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Kony Ealy, DL, Missouri
Ealy should go higher because of his versatility, but his versatility is just what will make him a “sexy” pick for the Seahawks. While cornerback is something that could be addressed, grabbing the best pick available is what helps teams win in the National Football League.