With NFL draft festivities in full swing, now is as good a time as any to start looking ahead to the 2014 NFL draft. Your team may not have chosen the player you wanted in the first round, but as they say, “there’s always next year.”
Mock drafts nearly a year prior to the draft have very little literal significance, but they certainly give us a good idea of which players to watch for this college football season. Consider them a viewing guide for Saturdays in the fall.
There aren’t many surprises at the top of this particular mock draft. Unless something extraordinary happen this season, South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney will be the No. 1 overall selection to whichever team holds to pick. Consider it a lucky situation for an unlucky franchise.
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will also be in the early first-round discussion when the 2014 draft arrives. They round out the top three, followed by a couple highly rated offensive tackles that could have declared for the 2013 draft.
The odds of this mock draft looking anything like the first round of 2014 are slim to none, but there are a lot of names that will likely be in the discussion next April. Let’s take a look at the early outlook and highlight a couple players who stand to gain a lot from a quality 2013-14 season.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Clowney is far and away the best college prospect in the nation. Were he eligible to declare in 2013, the Kansas City Chiefs would have been sitting pretty with the No. 1 pick.
2. Oakland Raiders: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Manziel made history at the Heisman ceremony this year, but he won’t be the first quarterback off the board in the 2014 draft. With a remarkable sophomore campaign and all the physical tools NFL teams look for in a franchise quarterback, Bridgewater stands to be the second player selected after Clowney, and it’s not even close.
3. New York Jets: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Manziel is a tremendous college quarterback, but he’ll need to get a little bigger to be considered a top NFL prospect. There’s a lot of football to be played (a whole season, in fact), but don’t be surprised if the first freshman Heisman winner is in the top five discussion in 2014.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Jake Matthews was widely considered a top 15 offensive tackle before he decided to return to Texas A&M. With a year at left tackle protecting Manziel, there’s no doubt he’ll be a highly coveted blindside protector in next year’s draft.
5. San Diego Chargers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Mattews and Taylor Lewan are options 1A and 1B. It’s really too early to rank one ahead of the other.
Lewan is extremely athletic for an offensive tackle and excels in pass protection from the left side. If he holds up against the Big Ten’s toughest pass-rushers in 2013-14, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be a top pick in next year’s draft.
6. Kansas City Chiefs: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Andy Reid loves developing quarterbacks. Even if Alex Smith plays well in 2013, there’s a good chance Reid pulls the trigger on his heir apparent in next year’s draft.
7. Cleveland Browns: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Norv Turner loves big wide receivers in the mold of Vincent Jackson and Josh Gordon. Marqise Lee isn't a big wideout, but he’ll probably be the best in the 2014 class. Much of that will depend on how well USC’s new quarterbacks play this season.
8. Buffalo Bills: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Having Boyd under center will make Clemson’s passing game one of the most exciting to watch this year. Expect Sammy Watkins to see a lot of targets and make quite a name for himself in anticipation for the 2014 draft.
9. Arizona Cardinals: David Fales, QB, San Jose State
Carson Palmer is a stop-gap solution in Arizona. The Cardinals will undoubtedly be in the market for a new signal-caller in next year’s draft, and David Fales is in line for a top-10 selection if he can reproduce his 2012-13 production.
10. Detroit Lions: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Lions probably won’t address all their linebacker needs in this year’s draft. Even if they shore up their linebacking corps prior to the 2014 draft, Anthony Barr will be too good to pass up in the top 10. He has a mile-high ceiling as an NFL linebacker.
11. Tennessee Titans: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Cornerback isn’t a flashy selection, but the Titans still need to work on adding some depth at the position. Bradley Roby was exceptional last season, and if he repeats that success this year, he’ll be a strong consideration for a lot of teams in the first 15 picks.
12. St. Louis Rams: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Rams are in line to have two first-round picks again next year as a result of the trade that allowed Washington to take Robert Griffin III in 2012. They’ll be able to use one of them on a tremendous defensive tackle in Louis Nix who is already showing the size, quickness and strength to be a versatile option on the interior of the Rams’ defensive line.
13. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Adding quality offensive linemen is never a bad idea, no matter what the Dolphins with the rest of their 2013 draft picks. With a strengthened receiving corps and a good young quarterback under center, Miami has to continue building in the trenches to maximize offensive efficiency going forward.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Josh Freeman may find himself on a short leash in 2013. He played well last season, but a repeat of his 2011 production this season could spell an early exit for the 25-year-old, especially with a strong quarterback class highlighting the 2014 draft.
In addition, Greg Schiano is reportedly “not sold” on Freeman going forward. 2014 may be the year he finds a replacement.
15. Dallas Cowboys: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
Anthony Spencer was handed a franchise tag this offseason, but his future beyond the 2013 season is still in question. If Dallas doesn’t intend on re-signing him, Monte Kiffin may be on the lookout for a new defensive end in the 2014 draft.
16. Chicago Bears: Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
The Bears are slowly adding to an offensive line that was among the worst in the league in 2012. Not every position can be fixed in one season, though, and there’s a good chance they continue building in the trenches in the early rounds of next year’s draft.
17. Carolina Panthers: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
For a team that went 7-9 last season, Carolina doesn’t have a ton of major holes to fill. The Panthers needed a cornerback before Chris Gamble’s retirement, though, and they’ll need to keep adding depth at the position going forward.
18. New Orleans Saints: Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama
Alabama is going to continue sending a lot of first-round talent to the draft in the coming years. Adrian Hubbard could be one of the best such talents in recent years, and he could land with a team desperately in need of additional pass-rushers for Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defense.
19. Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
It’s highly unlikely Baltimore will shore up all its defensive holes in one year. The loss of Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger will create a multi-year rebuilding of the Ravens’ linebacker corps, and BYU’s Kyle Van Noy would be a nice fit.
20. Minnesota Vikings: Kyle Fuller, CB Virginia Tech
Kyle Fuller has the ideal size and speed for the cornerback position in the NFL. He’ll need to bulk up a little to play in Minnesota’s press-heavy schemes, but he’s already one of the best corners in the 2014 draft class.
21. Houston Texans: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Matt Schaub will be 33 by the start of the 2014 season and he’s not exactly the most consistent quarterback in the league as it is. Aaron Murray may not be an immediate replacement under center, but he’ll give the Texans some good options going forward.
22. St. Louis Rams (from Washington): Morgan Breslin, DE, USC
The 6’2”, 250-pound Breslin recorded 12 sacks with the Trojans last season, and should he recreate that production in 2013, there’s a good chance he finds a home in the first round of the 2014 draft. The Rams aren’t lacking a quality pass rush, but Jeff Fisher loves physical defensive ends like Breslin.
23. Cincinnati Bengals: Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Clinton-Dix will see a much bigger role on Alabama’s defense this season, and he has the talent to put together a tremendous year. If Cincinnati hopes to get younger and more athletic at the safety positions, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Clinton-Dix come off the board here in 2014.
24. New York Giants: Sentreal Henderson, OT, Miami
The 2013 offensive tackle class is extremely top-heavy, and New York is unlikely to find elite blockers in the middle and later rounds. Fortunately, next year’s crop is much deeper and Sentreal Henderson will be a big part of it.
25. Indianapolis Colts: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
The Colts have to keep up with their franchise quarterback. Indianapolis has some young receivers who may step up in 2013, but it has to continue giving Andrew Luck quality targets to keep the offensive moving forward.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
Seattle just keeps getting stronger at every position. It could still use another quality tight end to move the sticks, though, and Seferian-Jenkins stands to be the best in the 2014 class. He’s a deadly vertical threat who can help open up the first for Seattle’s explosive receiving corps.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Expect the Steelers to focus heavily on the defensive side of the ball for the foreseeable future. Their defense needs to get younger at nearly every position, including inside linebacker.
28. Atlanta Falcons: Silas Redd, RB, USC
Steven Jackson was a nice addition for the 2013 season, but there’s no telling how long he can continue to hold up. Silas Redd will give them another tremendous option at the position and a potential replacement as the Falcons’ feature back.
29. New England Patriots: Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame
Stephon Tuitt recorded 12 sacks in 2012 at 303 pounds. A physical freak with the ability to play all over the defensive line, the Notre Dame product would be a dangerous complement to Vince Wilfork.
30. San Francisco 49ers: De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
Unless the 49ers make some massive changes this year, the first round of the 2014 draft will again be wide open. They simply don’t have a lot of holes to fill, and a pick like this wouldn’t be a huge surprise. Thomas has tremendous potential as an NFL runner.
31. Denver Broncos: Chaz Green, OT, Florida
Ryan Clady received Denver’s franchise tag this offseason and the Broncos haven’t been able to lock him up to a long-term deal yet. It seems unlikely he will walk in free agency next summer, but there’s always a possibility. If he does test the waters, Denver may end up looking for a replacement in the 2014 draft.
32. Green Bay Packers: Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
Carey’s 2012 production was off the charts. The versatile back rushed for 1,929 yards and 23 touchdowns and gives everyone a reason to watch Arizona this year. If he plays the same in 2013, he may not be available at the end of the first round.