2014 NFL Mock Draft: Early Outlook at Where Next Year's Top Prospects Will Land
One draft cycle came to an end yesterday with the final four rounds of the 2013 NFL draft. Another one will soon get underway as teams begin laying the groundwork for next year's big event. It's just another example of the endless business that is professional football.
Although a lot of things could change before Roger Goodell steps to the podium to open the 2014 draft, it's never too early to take a look at how things are shaping up. Early indications suggest the class should definitely feature more top-end star power leading the way.
With that in mind, here's a complete mock draft of the opening round based on projected finishes for each team. These players will be the ones to watch throughout the college football season. A deeper dive is taken into three selections, as denoted by italics.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Jaguars would be forced to make an incredibly tough decision here: either select a potentially dominant pass-rusher in Clowney, who will likely be the top overall prospect, or a quarterback.
2. Oakland Raiders: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Matt Flynn has one season to prove he's more than a stopgap option in Oakland. Unless he puts together a big year, the Raiders shouldn't pass on the opportunity to grab Bridgewater.
3. Buffalo Bills: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Buffalo took EJ Manuel, which should take them out of the quarterback market next year. Instead, they will target a quarterback of the defense, so to speak, in the likes of Mosley.
4. New York Jets: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Yes, the Jets drafted Geno Smith, and their roster is currently overflowing with quarterbacks. But it's still not a lock that the player they need to reinvigorate the offense is there. That would make it tough to pass on Manziel, the defending Heisman Trophy winner.
It's a perfect fit: a quarterback who forced his way into the spotlight a lot quicker than most people expected heading to a place where the spotlight is the brightest. The Texas A&M star should have the personality to survive in New York.
Of course, a lot will depend on how Manziel performs after winning the Heisman. He set the bar incredibly high right out of the gate, but he's got all the tools to succeed at the next level, especially with teams shifting toward more option offensive sets.
5. San Diego Chargers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
A lot of San Diego's draft strategy will depend on the season it gets from Philip Rivers. If he bounces back, getting him another weapon like Lee would be the way to go. If not, the Chargers could go QB.
6. Kansas City Chiefs: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Alex Smith already knows what it's likely to get passed on the depth chart by a young signal-caller after his experience with Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. It could very well happen again with the Chiefs.
7. Cleveland Browns: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Browns continue to lack playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. Watkins is a potential star on the outside who possesses the game-breaking ability Cleveland has lacked recently.
8. Philadelphia Eagles: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
There should be some cautious optimism in Philadelphia after a strong 2013 draft. That said, the Eagles still play in a very tough division and could pick inside the top 10 again to land a prospect like Roby.
9. Arizona Cardinals: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Arizona's process of rebuilding its offensive line began with the selection of Jonathan Cooper. Lewan would be another step toward ensuring the Cardinals' quarterbacks weren't under constant pressure.
10. Detroit Lions: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Give credit to the Lions for placing an emphasis on defense, which should continue next year. Tuitt should continue to emerge as one of the best pass-rushers available for 2014.
11. Tennessee Titans: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
All of the elite tackle prospects were off the board before the Titans picked this year. They should have a much better opportunity after next season with more playmaking stars headlining the class.
12. St. Louis Rams: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Rams were finally able to secure some weapons for Sam Bradford, starting with Tavon Austin. It should lead to immediate improvement on offense and potentially a defensive pick to start the next class.
13. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
While the offensive tackle need could be eliminated if Dallas Thomas has a strong rookie season, it's far from a guarantee. Should it remain an issue, Kouandjio would be an intriguing option.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Josh Freeman gets another season to show he warrants the franchise quarterback label. If he's not able to lock down the starting job, the Bucs would be wise to start looking toward the future with Thomas.
15. Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Cowboys spent most of their early picks on offensive players this year. While that should help Tony Romo's chances of proving that he's the right quarterback for Dallas, it means the focus will likely be on the defense by this time next year.
More specifically, the linebacker level. The Cowboys hope Justin Durant can make it less of an issue, but he's battled inconsistency throughout his career. That's why Barr could end up being high on Dallas' radar for 2013.
The UCLA rising star has shown good skills across the board. From run stopping to rushing the quarterback and dropping into coverage, he's got a solid base of skills. It should make him an instant-impact player heading into the 2014 season.
16. Chicago Bears: Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama
The Bears feature a solid, but aging, defense. The process of bringing in some fresh faces to ensure the unit remains on track will be continuous. Hubbard is yet another solid prospect from Alabama.
17. Carolina Panthers: Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
Carolina didn't address its need along the offensive line in the early rounds of the draft. There's a good chance that will lead to it becoming an even bigger void that must get filled next year.
Where do you think the Saints will draft in 2014?
18. New Orleans Saints: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
It's hard to imagine the narrative changing before next season. The Saints offense is still going to put up a lot of points, but there are still some holes on defense, including cornerback.
19. Baltimore Ravens: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
The Ravens underwent a lot of changes after winning the Super Bowl, which will make it tough to repeat. Making sure the defense remains a stalwart unit will remain the biggest key moving forward.
20. Minnesota Vikings: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Minnesota's front office deserves a lot of credit for making moves in this year's first round to fill holes. Finding a quarterback of the future will be on the agenda if Christian Ponder doesn't improve.
21. Houston Texans: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Finally, after several years of passing on wide receivers to help Andre Johnson, the Texans took DeAndre Hopkins to fill the void. Now they can focus on other areas in Round 1 for awhile.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WSH): Morgan Breslin, DE, USC
Emerging from the first round with Nix and Breslin would be a major coup for the Rams. Their outlook for the 2014 season is definitely looking bright after all these picks.
23. Cincinnati Bengals: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
The Bengals will probably be looking at two different directions here. They could go with another playmaker on offense or a versatile edge defender like Van Noy.
24. New York Giants: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
As it stands now, the Giants have two great options on the outside in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. What they don't have is somebody who can control the middle of the field and serve as Eli Manning's checkdown target.
That's where Seferian-Jenkins comes in. He's reeled in 110 passes for nearly 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns over the past two seasons at Washington. His blocking skills are still a work in progress but should improve with more experience.
He has ideal size for the position at 6'6'', which should allow him to excel in the red zone, but he still has good athleticism. After focusing on the trenches early in this year's draft, Seferian-Jenkins would be a wise start to the next class if his stock holds.
25. Indianapolis Colts: Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami
Protecting Andrew Luck is going to be one of Indianapolis' top priorities over the next decade. Henderson is a high-upside prospect whose stock could skyrocket over the next year.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
It will be interesting to see how the Seahawks' offense progresses in the second season with Russell Wilson under center. At least for now, it appears they could use another target for their young QB.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Pittsburgh's veteran safety duo of Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark has been in place for awhile, but it's time to start looking toward the future. That makes Clinton-Dix a good fit.
28. Atlanta Falcons: Silas Redd, RB, USC
Adding Steven Jackson was a good short-term move for the Falcons. The veteran should provide a steady presence in the backfield, but all the mileage on his legs should lead to a pick such as Redd.
29. New England Patriots: De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
The Patriots would be an ideal fit for Thomas. You know Tom Brady and Co. would find a way to maximize his potential despite a lack of ideal size for playing in the NFL.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
A tremendous athlete who could end up shifting positions at Florida, Purifoy would make sense for San Francisco at this point in the round, where teams can afford to take a chance.
31. Denver Broncos: Chaz Green, OT, Florida
The Broncos have plenty of skill players on both sides of the ball. Winning battles at the point of attack could be an issue in the fall, which would lead to picking Green or another lineman next year.
32. Green Bay Packers: Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford
Since Green Bay has emerged as the masters of value, it would simply select the best player on the board with this pick. Murphy is a prospect to keep an eye on over the next 12 months.
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