The writing is supposedly on the wall. We’re hearing more and more that the Houston Texans aren’t likely to take a quarterback with the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, while Jadeveon Clowney seems to be the favorite. The Texans haven’t made their interest in him any secret, while it’s still early enough in the process to think we have no clue what they plan on doing.
It’s entirely possible Clowney is the guy. He’s an absolute freak with pretty much no ceiling and the Texans could grab him to form a formidable defense. But they also need a quarterback. They didn’t trade away Matt Schaub to gamble on still having a shot on one late in the first round or early in the second. I still think Johnny Football is staying in Texas.
With that, let’s take another crack at how the other 31 picks might shake out in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft:
1. Houston Texans – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
I can’t stop imagining what it will be like when Manziel takes the field as a Texan. They already have a solid defense and plenty of weapons. All they’re really missing is someone who can make a positive difference under center. They need to take a gamble on Johnny Football being more than just a fad.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Redskins) – Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB, South Carolina
Whether or not the Rams are still here to make the pick isn’t the issue. One way or another, I can’t see two teams passing up on Clowney. I bet it’s the Falcons trading up to nab him, but either way, Clowney goes at the two spot.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
Mack is right up there with Clowney and there have been whispers that the Jags will wait until round two to nab a quarterback. Without reaching for one, they can nab Mack, an extremely athletic and versatile player who can line up with his hand in the dirt or drop into coverage. He’ll instantly make their defense better.
4. Cleveland Browns – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Cleveland is another team that supposedly isn’t all that interested in taking the plunge at quarterback this early. While I do think a stud tackle is very much in play here, I don’t think they’ll be able to pass up the electrifying Watkins. A receiver duo of Watkins and Josh Gordon is scary to think about.
5. Oakland Raiders – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
I know Al Davis is no longer with us, but it’s still the Raiders. That, and the top two pass rushers are gone and Watkins is now a Brown. They do have Matt Schaub, but they need a long-term answer under center. Carr could use a season of development, anyways, but they just might have a big-armed gem here.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Atlanta badly needs help at offensive tackle, defensive end and tight end. Robinson is just too talented and can help right away to go through the trouble of reaching elsewhere. Jake Matthews is also in play here, but Robinson arguably has more upside.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Lovie Smith gets his guy. Mike Glennon isn’t the answer under center and Josh McCown is a 1-2 year bridge to the next starter. Bridgewater may have slide a bit, but he’s probably the safest quarterback prospect in this draft class. Tampa Bay would also like a wide receiver or tight end here, but Bridgewater will be too tempting.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Anthony Barr, DE, UCLA
Rumors suggest the Vikes don’t want to go all in on a quarterback this early, and instead they’ll cross their fingers someone like Zach Mettenberger is available in round two. They might reconsider when three passers leap off the board in the first seven picks, but they also need help on defense. They’ll grab the explosive Barr to beef up their pass rush.
9. Buffalo Bills – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Matthews is too good to slide even this far, but he may have to endure it. The Bills will consider a wide receiver and tight end here, but their o-line could be a bit better and they need to make sure franchise quarterback E.J. Manuel is protected for the long haul.
10. Detroit Lions – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Calvin Johnson needs a running mate in the passing game and Golden Tate isn’t it. Evans may very well not last this long, but he’s here at the 10 spot, he’s as good as gone.
11. Tennessee Titans – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Tennessee could grab a passer they like here, but they really need corner help. Why not grab the fastest corner with the most upside?
12. New York Giants – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Aaron Donald would be nice to shore up New York’s defensive line, but they currently don’t have a tight end and Eli Manning needs more help. Eric Ebron will bring back the days of Jeremy Shockey, and then some.
13. St. Louis Rams – Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
St. Louis is supposed to draft a wide receiver in round one, I know. They might not. Instead, they’re building a foundation they can stand on. They pretty much need two safeties, so they might as well start by getting one with one of these two first round picks.
14. Chicago Bears – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Henry Melton got hurt last year and Chicago’s defense turned to mush. Clearly they need help across the defensive line, but it makes the most sense to start in the middle. Donald is an absolute beast.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Marqise Lee, WR, Detroit Lions
There has been a lot of chatter about the Steelers getting Big Ben a new toy. Lee is faster than his combine time suggests and he could be a terror in that offense. They’ll consider adding help for either line, but Lee will be too good to pass on.
16. Dallas Cowboys – Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Dallas is always a wild card, but their switch to the 4-3 did not go smoothly last year. They need to keep adding talent. Even with the addition of Henry Melton, they could still use a stud defensive tackle. Jernigan would make the interior of that line a major strength.
17. Baltimore Ravens – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Baltimore could go a number of directions here, but Lewan is a stud tackle and they need one. Considering they just paid a king’s ransom to keep the overrated Joe Flacco, they might as well make sure he’ll stay healthy.
18. New York Jets – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
New York might consider a high upside corner or safety here, but their main issues reside with their offense. Benjamin is a bit raw, but he’s also a total freak. He could be just what the doctor ordered.
19. Miami Dolphins – Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
Miami needs pieces for their offensive line and nothing should come before that. Martin is exceptionally versatile, so they can draft him for guard or tackle. It really doesn’t matter.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Hageman is a pass-rushing fiend up the middle and Arizona is aging on their defensive line. He can slide to either end spot and create major havoc for years to come. I wouldn’t rule out a passing prospect or an outside linebacker here, either.
21. Green Bay Packers – Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Green Bay could go offensive line, defensive line or linebacker here, but Pryor is a big bodied Bob Sanders. He’ll improve in coverage and he’ll give Green Bay a physical presence at the back of the defense they haven’t had in some time.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Mosley is talented enough to be a top-10 pick. Unfortunately for him, inside linebackers tend to fall these days. Philly is still adjusting to their new 3-4, though, and really could use him. A receiver makes sense here, too, but not if Mosley is still on the board.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The next Tony Gonzalez? Maybe not quite, but the Chiefs have trash at the tight end position right now and Amaro is as smooth as a receiver at the position as they come. Wide receiver or depth on defense is possible here, too.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
James Harrison was a failure. Shazier can play just about any linebacker spot, but is kind of perfect for Harrison’s old weak side spot. He’s also an insane athlete.
25. San Diego Chargers – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
San Diego got torched left and right last year against the pass. They need more talent in the secondary and Fuller is a rising prospect, so he makes a ton of sense.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Colts) – Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Whoa! Yeah, Carr was reached for by Oakland and Bortles plummeted. Someone had to take the mighty tumble, and in this mock it just so happens it’s Bortles. Cleveland might prefer Derek Carr but they certainly won’t be upset with landing Bortles, who probably is a much safer prospect.
27. New Orleans Saints – Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
New Orleans continues to build it’s new 3-4 scheme with an explosive edge rusher in Ealy. He’s a bit of a freak and is perfect for their system. I really can’t see them drafting anyone else.
28. Carolina Panthers – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Carolina does need some help on the offensive line and has some patching up to do on defense, but they’re insane if they don’t take a wide receiver in round one. They have literally no talent at receiver right now.
29. New England Patriots – Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Vince Wilfork is re-signed for the next few years but he’s aging and will be a cut candidate moving forward. Nix can learn behind him and be the next Wilfork in 2-3 seasons. He’s going to eat people. Literally.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
San Francisco has had issues with players on defense, whether it be craziness or injuries. They need to keep adding to a strength here, as Ford is an absolute terror coming from the outside. He looks to have the versatility to be able to play linebacker or defensive end, too.
31. Denver Broncos – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Denver did a great job repairing their secondary in free agency, but they should consider adding some quality youth. Dennard isn’t the most explosive corner, but he’s actually probably the best in this draft.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Tuitt has awesome versatility and can play inside or out on Seattle’s defensive line. They’re going to love that. They could add a receiver here, too, but passing on Tuitt would be silly.