2014 NFL Mock Draft: Breaking Down Next Year's 1st Round
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Let's fast forward through time and break down Round 1 of the 2014 NFL draft.
With 2013's draft complete, the upcoming class offers a similar pool of top prospects as the offensive line and defensive front seven run deep. That said, we also have the luxury of a quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater out of Louisville.
Elsewhere, there's plenty of strong talent again at receiver, whereas the running backs make a first-round comeback. So, instead of waiting until next April, here's a future glimpse right now.
Note: Highlighted players in italics.
1. Oakland Raiders: Jadeveon Clowney, DE (South Carolina)
The Raiders have to bolster the pass rush. So, what better way to give quarterbacks nightmares than with Jadeveon Clowney?
His natural instincts for wrecking the backfield will simply pay immediate dividends to a weak defense.
2. New York Jets: Taylor Lewan, OT (Michigan)
It's imperative that the Jets' pass protection improves. Regardless of who is under center, New York landing Taylor Lewan quickly walls the blindside. Factor his tenacity as a run-blocker, and Lewan helps Gang Green establish reliable balance.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB (Louisville)
Jacksonville didn't draft a quarterback in 2013, which leaves the opportunity open for Teddy Bridgewater in 2014.
For starters, the guy is an established passer—he tossed 27 scores to just eight picks in 2012. Factor a 68.5 completion percentage, and Bridgewater enters this fall with plenty of confidence. What really put Bridgewater on the map, though, was dicing up a Florida Gators defense in the Sugar Bowl.
There, he tossed two scores (one pick) and had a 62.5 completion percentage against one of college football's best defenses. In Jacksonville, he'll be provided with an array of playmakers such as Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts, Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson.
Not to mention the punishing ground attack featuring Maurice Jones-Drew to set up the pass.
4. Arizona Cardinals: Jake Matthews, OT (Texas A&M)
After drafting a punishing blocker in Jonathan Cooper, Arizona stays with the line and gets Jake Matthews from Texas A&M. Possessing just as much talent as Luke Joeckel, Matthews' ability to pass protect becomes a strong advantage in the NFC West.
5. San Diego Chargers: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT (Alabama)
The Chargers got a nice offensive tackle in D.J. Fluker, but he's not an incredibly dominant pass-blocker. That said, sticking with the Crimson Tide and taking Cyrus Kouandjio completes the edge for Philip Rivers. Now the Bolts feature a much safer pocket and an even better ground game.
6. Buffalo Bills: Marqise Lee, WR (USC)
A playmaking receiver that will produce is exactly what Marqise Lee brings to Buffalo. In two seasons for the Trojans, he has accumulated 2,864 yards on 191 receptions, including 25 touchdowns. His ability to siphon zones underneath and press downfield gives the Bills a more explosive attack.
7. Dallas Cowboys: Lamarcus Joyner, S (Florida State)
Dallas has the defense to slow down any high-powered offense. Presenting a safety that will make plays on the ball will take Big D to the next level.
The Cowboys have a strong cornerback tandem, so landing Lamarcus Joyner completes the coverage with his ability to locate the ball and quickly redirect.
8. Detroit Lions: Kareem Martin, DE (North Carolina)
Adding to the pass rush will significantly bolster Detroit's defense. Kareem Martin offers the talent to wreck opposite of Ziggy Ansah, which in turn, develops as a strong complement to Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
9. Carolina Panthers: Darqueze Dennard, CB (Michigan State)
The NFC South remains a pass-oriented division. Therefore, Carolina addressing its coverage need with Darqueze Dennard brings in a guy capable of instantly closing off half the field.
A byproduct of his impact results in more time for the reliable pass rush to apply pressure.
10. New Orleans Saints: Kyle Van Noy, LB (BYU)
An explosive pass-rusher will significantly bolster the Saints defense.
BYU's Kyle Van Noy is a true playmaker, as evidenced by his 22 sacks, 44.5 tackles for loss, 14 defended passes and 11 forced fumbles since 2010. His initial jump at the snap will allow him to beat one-on-one blocking situations, constrict running lanes and track ball-carriers from the backside.
New Orleans fielded one of the worst defenses in NFL history last year, so it's going to take more than one season for a complete turnaround. Adding Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro was a huge plus in 2013, along with Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins.
Van Noy's entire skill set simply complements each, because he'll create numerous turnover opportunities and help New Orleans win on first down.
11. Tennessee Titans: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE (Texas)
A tougher defensive line will do wonders for Tennessee. The Titans have the linebackers to make plays against the run or pass. Helping that group out, though, with Jackson Jeffcoat gives Tennessee a solid run-stuffer for the immediate point of attack. In turn, Tennessee halts drives early to then utilize its pass rush.
12. Cleveland Browns: Jason Verrett, CB (TCU)
Along with the addition of Leon McFadden, Cleveland spruces up its secondary with Jason Verrett. If anything, he'll simply keep making plays courtesy of the Browns' solid pass rush. At the same time, more plays made will help Cleveland win the field-position battle.
13. Philadelphia Eagles: Johnny Manziel, QB (Texas A&M)
Even with Matt Barkley getting selected in Round 4 of 2013, the guy still has quarterbacking concerns.
Johnny Manziel, on the other hand, is a versatile fit for Chip Kelly's style. Possessing the excellent mobility for avoiding the NFC East pass-rushers, Manziel is also a better passer than he's given credit for being.
14. New York Giants: Louis Nix, DT (Notre Dame)
Louis Nix is a beast within the trenches. The Giants need him to fill gaps and eat blocks on the interior. Ultimately, his impact inflates the numbers for Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Devin Street, WR (Pittsburgh)
Supplying Ben Roethlisberger with a deep-threat receiver will take Pittsburgh's offense to another level. So, the Steelers opt for the hometown prospect Devin Street to capitalize off play action and inside the red zone.
16. Miami Dolphins: Gabe Jackson, G (Mississippi State)
A physical ground game will enhance Miami's postseason odds. This is exactly what Gabe Jackson brings to South Florida, not to mention that he acts as a strong complement to Jonathan Martin.
The Dolphins now possess even more balance and work the tempo to their liking.
17. Chicago Bears: Ryan Shazier, LB (Ohio State)
Chicago has gotten two good linebackers in Khaseem Greene and Jon Bostic during the 2013 draft. Still, selecting Ryan Shazier completes the second level. Veteran D.J. Williams turns 31 years old before this season, and Bostic is capable of isolating the middle. Fielding Shazier just gives the Bears better coverage at the intermediate level and a dependable run-stuffer.
18. St. Louis Rams: Ka’Deem Carey, RB (Arizona)
St. Louis drafted a potential No. 1 running back in Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy in Round 5 on Saturday.
That said, electing to take Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey solidifies great top-talented depth at the position. Carey is coming off an unreal 2012 campaign in which he compiled 2,232 total yards and scored 24 touchdowns.
Measuring at 5'10" and 196 pounds, Carey has the dual-threat ability to develop as a competitive advantage in the NFC West. In a physical division, a slew of running backs to compete in training camp works nicely to field a complete offense.
Carey will need to improve at pass-blocking, but the Rams' upgraded aerial assault for quicker-developing plays will negate quarterback pressure.
19. Kansas City Chiefs: James Hurst, OT (North Carolina)
Eric Fisher certainly heightens the talent along Kansas City's line. Pairing James Hurst opposite completes the edges for Alex Smith and gives more polished lanes for Jamaal Charles. In short, the Chiefs establish balance and move with great efficiency.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ben Gardner, DE (Stanford)
Tampa Bay's pass defense is capable of generating all kinds of turnovers. The opportunities to create them, however, will get amplified with a better pass rush. Therefore, enter Ben Gardner to the Buccaneers. He has a knack for crashing the backfield party, and additional pressure forces an influx of ill-advised throws.
21. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): Ed Reynolds, S (Stanford)
Ed Reynolds is a safety that will seek out the rock and change the field position after creating turnovers. The Rams are a perfect fit, because he'll be given numerous opportunities playing behind St. Louis' stellar front seven and cornerback tandem.
22. New England Patriots: Jordan Matthews, WR (Vanderbilt)
New England has the rushing attack to punch the gut of a defense. With that, Tom Brady is able to work even better off play action. Lining up receiver Jordan Matthews then takes advantage of a defense for honoring the run. His size and leaping talent alone capitalizes against Cover 1 and on third down.
23. Baltimore Ravens: Greg Blair, LB (Cincinnati)
A complete linebacker to immediately contribute inside keeps the Ravens' front seven stellar. Greg Blair sinks nicely when in coverage and also reacts well against the run. And he'll produce even more courtesy of Baltimore's edge-rushers.
24. Green Bay Packers: Morgan Breslin, DE (USC)
Even with the addition of Datone Jones, Green Bay needs to stick with the front line. Ryan Pickett turns 34 years old this season and replenishing youth in the trenches keeps the run defense stout. At No. 24 overall Green Bay grabs Morgan Breslin, a defensive end with a nose for the backfield (19.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks in 2012).
25. Minnesota Vikings: Aaron Murray, QB (Georgia)
The Vikings have to put a passer under center for stretching defenses. Aaron Murray is the solution here and provides a stronger arm than at first glance. Additionally, Murray won't have the pressure to develop, because feeding Adrian Peterson will prevent defenses from disguising blitz packages.
26. Cincinnati Bengals: Ty Zimmerman, S (Kansas State)
A safety that tracks the ball well is the final missing piece for Cincinnati's defense. Ty Zimmerman not only finds the rock, but will change the field position as well.
Given the Bengals' spruced up offense and more possessions for A.J. Green and Co., this pick propels Cincy into the Super Bowl discussion.
When will the Colts make their next Super Bowl?
27. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Barr, LB (UCLA)
Upgrading the pass rush will make the Colts Super Bowl contenders. Anthony Barr offers this ability, as he accounted for 13.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in 2012. If anything, the Indianapolis offense is then given more possessions to up the tempo.
28. San Francisco 49ers: Daniel McCullers, DT (Tennessee)
A multiple-gap-plugging defensive tackle will sustain the 49ers' suffocating defensive line. Well, Tennessee's Daniel McCullers measures at 6'8" and 360 pounds. That size will constantly clog lanes and draw double-teams, so the rest of San Francisco's front seven can keep making plays.
29. Atlanta Falcons: Will Sutton, DE (Arizona State)
A natural pass-rusher is one more aspect the Falcons must address. Will Sutton comes in at the back end of Round 1, a defensive end that recorded 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks last season.
Now Atlanta is able to control up front and force more turnovers.
30. Houston Texans: Brad Roby, CB (Ohio State)
When challenged last season, Brad Roby answered the call with 19 defended passes and scoring twice (one interception and one fumble return). Houston still has the need to lock down on the outside, and Roby's proven talent will increase courtesy of Ed Reed's presence back deep.
31. Denver Broncos: Brian Blechen, S (Utah)
The Broncos addressed the secondary in the 2013 draft, but they did it with South Florida's Kayvon Webster at cornerback.
Leading into 2014 the safety position remains a need.
Here the Broncos land Utah's Brian Blechen, a guy that has forced six fumbles in three seasons. Even better, Blechen offers strong size for a safety at 6'2" and 212 pounds for delivering hits and minimizing yards allowed after the catch.
Blechen also has an impressive 203 tackles and is technically sound at making plays on the ball (20 defended passes since 2010).
32. Seattle Seahawks: Cody Hoffman, WR (BYU)
The Seahawks can use one more good-sized receiver to make plays downfield. BYU's Cody Hoffman offers this (6'4", 215 lbs) and has caught 161 passes over the past two seasons (21 touchdowns). Seattle's defense is complete, so getting more high powered offensively makes Pete Carroll's squad even tougher to beat.
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