2014 NFL Mock Draft: Early Projections for Next Year's 1st Round
With the 2013 NFL draft in its final day of action, let's warp ahead to Round 1 of the 2014 draft.
Is it ever too early for the next year's mock?
Before you know it the 2013 football season will be underway, then we'll be right back here debating where college football's top stars end up in Round 1. So to dodge all the chaos that will ensue between now and next draft season, let's catch of glimpse of 2014 as we enter the summer.
Note: Highlighted players in italics.
1. Oakland Raiders: Jadeveon Clowney, DE (South Carolina)
South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney is a straight beast coming off the edge.
Oakland drastically lacked a pass rush in 2012 and neglected to address the defensive line in Round 1 of the 2013 draft. So instead, Clowney goes to the Raiders for applying constant quarterback pressure and constricting running lanes.
In just two seasons for coach Steve Spurrier, Clowney has accumulated 35.5 tackles for losses and has forced eight fumbles. He impressed during his freshman campaign and one-upped himself all throughout 2012.
Given that the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos all possess an improved aerial assault, Oakland must counterbalance that with an upgraded rush.
2. New York Jets: Taylor Lewan, OT (Michigan)
It's another steep pool of prospects along the offensive line. Taylor Lewan had top-10 talent for 2013, which only boosts his stock for 2014. The Jets remain in a tough spot offensively, but rebuilding in the trenches always helps quicken the process.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB (Louisville)
Easily one of college football's most productive signal-callers, Teddy Bridgewater shined even brighter after he diced up the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl. Jacksonville's future at the position is flaky, so getting Bridgewater helps the offense get back on track.
How many offensive linemen go in Round 1 in 2014?
4. Arizona Cardinals: Jake Matthews, OT (Texas A&M)
Arizona is headed in the correct direction. Along with taking Jonathan Cooper in Round 1 of 2013, opting for Jake Matthews completes half the offensive line in 2014. Like Lewan, Matthews had top-10 talent this year and his status doesn't change entering next April.
5. San Diego Chargers: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT (Alabama)
San Diego got its offensive tackle in D.J. Fluker, but his forte is run-blocking. That said, putting Cyrus Kouandjio opposite Fluker creates a strong edge tandem for Philip Rivers. Now the Bolts get more from their quarterback to attack defenses downfield.
6. Buffalo Bills: Marqise Lee, WR (USC)
The good thing about EJ Manuel is his mobility and arm strength. That fits nicely with Marqise Lee, a receiver capable of making plays all over the field. As a result, he becomes a competitive advantage for the Bills on third down and inside the red zone.
7. Dallas Cowboys: Lamarcus Joyner, S (Florida State)
Featuring a strong cornerback tandem in Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr, Dallas has to complement them with an instinctive safety. Look no further than Lamarcus Joyner, because he defended 17 passes between 2010 and 2012. Although his numbers aren't wowing, Joyner will see additional opportunities courtesy of the cornerbacks locking down one-on-one.
8. Detroit Lions: Kareem Martin, DE (North Carolina)
A strong pass rush will help Detroit make a run back toward the postseason. Kareem Martin knows how to menace a backfield, as well as react fast to quick passing plays. In turn, the Lions collapse the pocket more consistently and suffocate versus the run.
9. Carolina Panthers: Darqueze Dennard, CB (Michigan State)
Unless the Panthers find a way to cut back on their allowed completion percentage (66.8) and generate more turnovers, Carolina isn't making the postseason. Fortunately Darqueze Dennard offers the talent to make plays, courtesy of 87 return yards off six interceptions and 94 tackles the past two years.
10. New Orleans Saints: Kyle Van Noy, LB (BYU)
In Rob Ryan's 3-4 front, a pass-rushing linebacker is required to dominate the line of scrimmage. BYU's Kyle Van Noy fits perfectly, as he has amassed 44.5 tackles for loss and forced 11 fumbles since the 2010 campaign.
11. Tennessee Titans: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE (Texas)
Possessing a sound group of linebackers, Tennessee fielding a tougher defensive line bolsters its ability to asphyxiate the trenches. Jackson Jeffcoat has a knack for causing backfield turbulence, an attribute needed to win in the run-oriented AFC South.
12. Cleveland Browns: Jason Verrett, CB (TCU)
The Browns still need to add depth at cornerback to complement Joe Haden. Well, allow Jason Verrett to fill the void. Just last season alone he defended 22 passes and recorded six picks with 63 tackles.
13. Philadelphia Eagles: Johnny Manziel, QB (Texas A&M)
Johnny Manziel's forte is the ideal fit for coach Chip Kelly and the Eagles.
The good news is Manziel will be provided with explosive offensive talent in Philadelphia. Running backs LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown are capable of racking up incredible yards per carry, not to mention making Manziel's job easy by dodging tackles in space to move downfield on screens and/or checkdowns.
Manziel's mobility is definitely going to give defenses problems, because a simple rush won't get to him. And should a defense elect to play the waiting game, Manziel is a better passer than given credit: especially from the pocket.
Factor the presence of Lane Johnson and this offense takes us back to when Randall Cunningham was under center in Philly.
14. New York Giants: Louis Nix, DT (Notre Dame)
The essence of Louis Nix's impact for New York is to eat blocks and close running lanes from the snap. He will, however, slip past single blocks to crash the backfield and apply interior quarterback pressure. As a result, the Giants receive inflated numbers from Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Devin Street, WR (Pittsburgh)
A top standout deep-threat receiver is the last missing piece to Pittsburgh's offensive puzzle. Finding that player won't take long, though, as Devin Street snagged 73 passes for the University of Pittsburgh in 2012. Supplying to size to outjump versus any coverage scheme, Ben Roethlisberger can once again launch downfield to force a defense on its heels.
16. Miami Dolphins: Gabe Jackson, G (Mississippi State)
Miami has one tackle in place with Jonathan Martin. Putting guard Gabe Jackson on the interior simply gives the Dolphins a more punishing attack. The AFC East is evolving into this style, so landing a physical SEC lineman will easily create efficient balance.
17. Chicago Bears: Ryan Shazier, LB (Ohio State)
Ryan Shazier is an instinctive linebacker capable of contributing at either side of the defensive front. Offering that versatility to pass rush and sink into coverage, Shazier's overall skill set keeps Chicago physically dominant at the line of scrimmage.
18. St. Louis Rams: Ka’Deem Carey, RB (Arizona)
St. Louis needs a running back and Carey just enjoyed a dominant breakout campaign. Last season he totaled 1,929 rushing and 303 receiving yards and scored 24 times. This dual-threat potential suits nicely in the NFC West, because Carey will punch the gut of a defense and/or sneak out into the flats for a screen or checkdown.
19. Kansas City Chiefs: James Hurst, OT (North Carolina)
With Eric Fisher walling off one side, Kansas City completes its line with James Hurst. Definitely one of the more athletic linemen this draft, Hurst's entire repertoire attributed to Giovani Bernard's quick impact and quarterback Bryn Renner only getting sacked 11 times in 2012.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ben Gardner, DE (Stanford)
Tampa Bay's bolstered secondary has the talent to take over any contest. Complementing that with a beefed-up pass rush and more consistent run defense just fields a completed unit. Ben Gardner is the answer at No. 20 overall, courtesy of reliable dominance at smashing up the backfield.
21. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): Ed Reynolds, S (Stanford)
St. Louis possesses a well put-together front seven after getting Alec Ogletree. Improving its corners and sporting a dependable safety is the final step. That said, Ed Reynolds was always around ball in 2012 as evidence of 47 tackles, as well as six interceptions returned for 301 yards and three scores.
22. New England Patriots: Jordan Matthews, WR (Vanderbilt)
Providing Tom Brady with a big target that will stretch defenses is New England's biggest need. Jordan Matthews not only has the size to win jump balls, but he's consistently reliable after hauling in 134 passes the past two seasons (13 touchdowns).
23. Baltimore Ravens: Greg Blair, LB (Cincinnati)
Greg Blair has just one legit college season under his belt; however, it's a good one. For the Bearcats in 2012 he racked up 138 tackles and defended eight passes. Baltimore needs another interior linebacker to constantly find the rock, and Blair is the perfect candidate.
24. Green Bay Packers: De’Anthony Thomas, RB (Oregon)
The dynamic ability of De’Anthony Thomas matches nicely with the Packers' offensive approach. His incredible explosiveness helps when running off tackle or a counter, as well as for bolting upfield on screens and draws. In short, Thomas will occupy the attention of a front seven away from Aaron Rodgers.
25. Minnesota Vikings: Aaron Murray, QB (Georgia)
Georgia's Aaron Murray is one guy no team needing a quarterback can lose sight of.
Since getting under center for coach Mark Richt in 2010, Murray has carved up SEC defenses quite well. Along with his 61.5 completion percentage thus far (64.5 in 2012), Murray has tossed 95 touchdowns to only 32 picks and nearly pulled a miraculous upset over Alabama in the 2012 conference title game.
He knows how to set up consistently from under center, possesses a stronger arm than at first glance and will spread a defense to move efficiently. Provided Murray continues to improve at pre-snap recognition for blitz schemes, he will hit another level of production.
The Vikings take him at No. 25, because Christian Ponder doesn't give Minnesota an electric aerial assault. Murray's ability to press downfield is much better and he works effectively off play action.
26. Cincinnati Bengals: Damien Williams, RB (Oklahoma)
Through one contributing season at Oklahoma, Damien Williams has really come onto the college football scene. Totaling 1,266 yards last season and averaging 5.4 per rush, Williams' ability to slam between the tackles develops as a competitive advantage for Cincinnati.
27. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Barr, LB (UCLA)
A much more forceful pass rush will propel the Colts into the Super Bowl discussion. Even though Bjoern Werner was taken in Round 1 of 2013, bringing in UCLA's Anthony Barr emphasizes the need to crush the line of scrimmage. After all, Barr created four fumbles in 2012 and accounted for 13.5 sacks.
28. San Francisco 49ers: Calvin Barnett, DT (Oklahoma State)
All San Francisco needs Calvin Barnett to do is defeating man-blocking situations. Once he establishes that part of his game, Barnett will draw extra blockers and free up the linebackers to make plays. Clogging running lanes remains the backbone of the 49ers defense, and Barnett's proven talent to havoc the backfield makes a quick impact.
29. Atlanta Falcons: Will Sutton, DE (Arizona State)
Atlanta addressed its need in the secondary with Desmond Trufant in Round 1 of 2013.
Still, the Falcons don't field an intimidating defensive front to crunch blocking schemes and get quarterback pressure. Just last season the Dirty Birds managed a dismal 29 sacks and gave up an average of 4.8 yards per carry.
To that end, snagging Will Sutton from Arizona State in 2014 immediately takes care of the perimeter. Sutton enjoyed an explosive campaign last fall with 23.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, five defended passes and three forced fumbles.
His nose for the ball when darting off the edge significantly complements Atlanta's opportunistic secondary. Ultimately, Sutton's instant production generates more turnovers, which in turn provides the Dirty Birds' high-powered offense with even more possessions.
30. Houston Texans: Brad Roby, CB (Ohio State)
One guy Houston must get is Brad Roby. He was around the ball often last fall (19 defended passes, 63 tackles) and will benefit from playing in front of Ed Reed and behind the Texans' stellar front seven.
31. Denver Broncos: Ty Zimmerman, S (Kansas State)
Safety is the greatest need for the Broncos right now. And addressing it with Ty Zimmerman blankets back deep for years to come. He judges the ball well and is reliable with assignment discipline. Plus, 10 of his 20 defended passes are interceptions that have been returned for 146 yards.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Daniel McCullers, DT (Tennessee)
The only true need for Seattle is a rough defensive line to bash at the immediate point of attack. Tennessee's Daniel McCullers won't produce the sexy stat sheet numbers, but his size frame will plug multiple gaps and draw double-teams. The end results are inflated numbers from the rushers, because McCullers is eating enough blocks to create exterior mismatches.
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