NFL Mock Draft 2014: Very Early 1st-Round Predictions
With one draft in the books, it's time to cast an eye 12 months down the road on what might be in the 2014 NFL draft.
The worst part about doing these so far ahead, of course, is that no fan is going to be happy with their team having the No. 1 pick. Sure the Oakland Raiders or Jacksonville Jaguars will love their new player in 12 months, but they're about to go crazy trying to convince themselves that they'll be picking in the teens instead.
Who knows? Maybe they will. You know what, feel free to leave your own mock draft in the comments. Make your team the Super Bowl champion. Go nuts.
If the 2014 draft happened today, here's what it might look like.
1. Oakland Raiders, Teddy Bridgewater (QB Louisville)
Bridgewater isn't the top prospect in the 2014 NFL draft, but he's close, and he's a quarterback. That's more than enough to go No. 1 for a team that needs a long-term answer at quarterback.
Yes, I know that Matt Flynn is on the roster, but Flynn doesn't have any of the physical tools that Bridgewater has, and unless the Oakland Raiders plan on getting all of the receivers from the 2011 Green Bay Packers and playing each game against the banged up 2011 Detroit Lions, he's not going to be as great as fans want.
At 6'3", 220 pounds, Bridgewater has the size and arm strength NFL teams crave. He's got great intangibles and has shown he can step up and win big games. If he'd been able to come out in the 2013 NFL draft, he'd be a Kansas City Chief today as the top overall pick.
In this scenario, he's helping the Raiders get themselves back to a Super Bowl.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars, Jadeveon Clowney (DE South Carolina)
Now, this is the top prospect in the 2013 NFL draft!
Clowney is a man among boys. That phrase gets thrown out about players every so often, but not usually in the SEC. He's just a beast and might be the best defensive prospect we've seen since Julius Peppers. It is not overstating, in any way, that this is a once-in-a-lifetime pick that could completely turn around the franchise that makes it.
He's massive (6'6", 270 pounds) and has both the athleticism and the fluidity of an elite offensive prospect. He's violent through the line and even more as he contacts the ball-carrier or quarterback.
3. Buffalo Bills, Taylor Lewan (OT Michigan)
One of the few players who has ever contained Clowney is Michigan's Taylor Lewan. Had he stayed in the 2013 draft, he'd have likely been the third or fourth tackle, but another year with a quarterback not named Denard Robinson under center should help him solidify this spot.
More than some of the other tackle prospects, Lewan has the athleticism and the polish to be an elite pass-protector at the next level as well as a plus run-blocker. If he continues to improve at the rate he improved last year, he could end up as the best left tackle prospect since Joe Thomas.
4. New York Jets, Marqise Lee (WR USC)
Stanford's David Shaw called Lee the best receiver he's seen since Randy Moss. High praise from a competitor, but also high praise from a talented evaluator who's been around the block in the NFL as well as college football.
Lee has nice size (6'0", 195 pounds) and will probably continue to fill out his frame in the next year. He's a ridiculous athlete and has sure hands. His ability to pluck the ball out of the air is going to go nicely with Geno Smith in New York.
5. Arizona Cardinals, Tajh Boyd (QB Clemson)
The Cardinals added Carson Palmer in the offseason. Even if he is everything they hope for, he's going to be 34 by the time this draft pick rolls around, and it's time to add a quarterback of the future, regardless. That said, Palmer's not going to be that good. That's why they're picking fifth.
Boyd is a great athlete for the position who can work the ball downfield better than Palmer could in his prime. He has fantastic arm talent and great touch. He's a perfect fit for Bruce Arians' scheme and is going to shed a lot of the "system"/"dual-threat" stigma this season.
6. Philadelphia Eagles, C.J. Mosley (OLB Alabama)
After Clowney, Mosley is the best defender in the draft, and it's not close.
While Mosley can be a run-stuffer in the middle, he's also talented rushing the passer and in coverage. He could fit in a 3-4 or a 4-3 and could likely excel at a number of different linebacker positions in either scheme.
Take the best athlete you can find and put him with Nick Saban...that's the kind of prospect we're talking about here.
7. Cleveland Browns, David Fales (QB San Jose State)
Whoa, tap the breaks here fella!
Most of our picks up until this point have been from the typical football factories. What is this San Jose State kid doing here? Well, if you haven't heard of Fales yet, get ready, because he has legitimate top-15 potential.
Fales is extremely poised in the pocket but has the athleticism to move around outside of it and throw on the run. He's fearless in the face of pressure and has enough arm strength and touch to hit deep throws falling away.
After Bridgewater, this is the best arm in the 2014 draft class. Cleveland has a bunch of talent, but needs a quarterback. This is a perfect fit.
8. Detroit Lions, Jake Matthews (OT Texas A&M)
Matthews was the right tackle for the Aggies this past season but will move to the left side for Johnny Manziel this upcoming campaign. For Texas A&M, he's a perfect left tackle because Manziel runs around so much. In the NFL, he'll need to show a lot more polish as a perimeter pass-protector. He has all the athleticism to do it.
The Lions grabbed their pass-rusher in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, but Matt Stafford will need a pass-protector before the Lions start drafting outside the top 10 again.
9. Tennessee Titans, Anthony Barr (OLB UCLA)
If Barr had more polish as a linebacker, we could be talking about a top-five prospect. However, as a former running back, it's intriguing to think about what kind of potential he could have and the kind of tape he could put out in 2013.
The Titans just need more playmakers on both sides of the ball. They've added some offensive pieces in 2013, and the defense gets a gigantic boost here.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jackson Jeffcoat (DE Texas)
This pick assumes that Jeffcoat actually gets (and stays) healthy. When he's at 100 percent, he's one of the best pass-rushers in college football. When he's hobbled by a torn pectoral muscle...well, he still makes plays. That's how good this guy is.
The Buccaneers have spent tons of time, money and effort this offseason improving their defense. Jeffcoat steps in as a blue-chip pass-rusher to make them even better.
11. San Diego Chargers, Cyrus Kouandjio (OT Alabama)
The Chargers needed a left tackle this offseason but ended up with the Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker. While Fluker will be a great player in San Diego, he's not guarding anyone's blind side. Might as well keep that Alabama game tape for next season...
Kouandjio was a top recruit, and he's matured well in Alabama. As of right now, he's a much better run-blocker than an athletic pass-blocker (enough that I would not make this pick if Norv Turner were still in town), but I have a feeling Alabama's coaches are working on that—perhaps as you're reading this.
12. Carolina Panthers, Sammy Watkins (WR Clemson)
Watkins doesn't even need a U-Haul to get his stuff from Clemson to his NFL home. He can just take a couple of trips in a friend's Ford Festiva. Charlotte is only two hours from this dynamic receiver, and it would be crazy to let him slip away.
He's a bit smaller than one might like out of a No. 1 receiver, but he's also ridiculously dynamic, has upside on kick returns and can turn a swing pass into a 50-yard touchdown. At this point, Steve Smith can't possibly have that much left in the tank.
13. Pittsburgh Steelers, Bradley Roby (CB Ohio State)
Ike Taylor will be going on 35 when this selection happens, and he's already been losing a step the past couple of seasons. It's important to get a player with Pro Bowl potential to replace him and stem some of the talent losses this team has seen over the last four to five years.
Roby was a second-team All-American in 2012. He's more of a prototypical corner than the longer, heavier corners we've seen in recent years thanks to the Seahawks. He showcases great ball skills and fluidity in space.
14. Dallas Cowboys, Jonathan Brown (LB Illinois)
Brown is light for an inside linebacker, but in the Dallas Cowboys' Tampa 2 (assuming they haven't fired more coaches by this point next year), he's a perfect fit. He's great in coverage because he's so athletic, but he's even better at attacking the line of scrimmage. Because of that, he could play a number of positions in Dallas' system.
15. Kansas City Chiefs, Deion Belue (CB Alabama)
Right now, this pick is a bit of a projection. If the draft happened today, Belue would probably be a late-first, early second-round pick. Still, I'm not betting against a top SEC corner taking another step forward—especially in Saban's system.
He's got good size (expect him to add weight), learned Saban's system very quickly as a JUCO transfer and has good ball skills. Honestly, at this point next year, we could be talking about him as another top-10 pick for Saban's defense.
16. New York Giants, Trey DePriest (LB Alabama)
Trey DePriest has been an exciting player for the Crimson Tide, even buried behind talented linebackers in that unit. He's a big body with enough athleticism to be an SEC special teams standout. Although, this ranking could be a tad high if he doesn't get over his recent broken foot quickly enough to make a huge impact in 2013.
The Giants defense added some more teeth up front in the 2013 draft, but playmakers on defense have been few and far between for Big Blue. DePriest gives them a five-tool player on the inside and someone who can make an impact at the second level.
17. New Orleans Saints, Adrian Hubbard (OLB Alabama)
Back-to-back-to-back Alabama players for a second year in a row? It's possible my friends.
Adrian Hubbard may end up going a lot higher, but the 3-4 defenses above the Saints (Kansas City, Pittsburgh, San Diego) don't have needs at outside linebacker as immediate as New Orleans does, and I'm not sure he can put is hand in the dirt at the next level.
So, the Saints get a perfect pass-rusher who also has a little flexibility in coverage and can shed blockers against the run—a perfect fit for Rob Ryan.
18. Chicago Bears, C.J. Barnett (FS Ohio State)
The Bears have a lot of middling talent at safety, and it's about time they add a blue-chip prospect.
Barnett is one of the rare safety prospects who, given the right situation, could end up going a lot higher in the first round (offensive linemen and pass-rushers push him down this scenario). He was a former top cornerback recruit but is fantastic against the run while maintaining his cornerback-trained ball skills.
Look for Barnett to take a step forward this season as he continues to terrorize the Big Ten.
19. St. Louis Rams, David Yankey (OT Stanford)
Yankey is a better pass-protector than he's often given credit for and will likely take a step back as a run-blocker in the NFL unless he winds up in a zone-blocking scheme. That said, I'm not pigeonholing him as a "ZBS-only" lineman, because of his fantastic kick-slide, hand placement and anchor in pass protection—all qualities that will end up getting their due in 2013.
The Rams offense looks to be more dynamic this season, but don't be surprised if they're scrambling for more protection with this draft class.
20. Miami Dolphins, Anthony Steen (OG Alabama)
Yep, another Alabama offensive linemen...it just pumps them out like clockwork.
Steen could have come out in 2013 and would have been a second-round pick (potentially first the way this draft went), he'll graduate this spring and have even more time to give to football. He could be an All-Pro-caliber player at right guard for a long time to come and reminds me of Kevin Zeitler of the Cincinnati Bengals.
21. St. Louis Rams (From WSH), Lache Seastrunk (RB Baylor)
The Rams got their offensive lineman with their first pick of the first round (No. 19 overall). Now, they grab the most dynamic running back of the class. Seastrunk can step right in and be the leader of the Rams' running back stable while giving the offense a boost in the passing game as well.
The stock could soar on this guy over the next season—especially in pre-draft workouts. They may need to make this pick at 10 rather than 21.
22. Indianapolis Colts, Jordan Matthews (WR Vanderbilt)
Matthews is a big-bodied receiver who moves well for a guy his size and high-points the ball as well as anyone in this class. He may end up as the nation's top receiver in 2013 and will only drop because the athletes above him may have less pure receiving skills, but are more freakish of athletes.
I love the idea of pairing Matthews with Andrew Luck because he has the size to work down the field but also the ability to take a five-yard slant, run away from linebackers and punish a defensive back trying to tackle him.
23. Minnesota Vikings, Vic Beasley (DE Clemson)
Another bit of a projection as I think Vic Beasley is about to have a monster season—though, predicting that a Clemson defensive lineman will take a step forward is hardly beyond the pale.
Beasley is a long athlete with plenty of athleticism to get around the edge. If he adds a double move to his game or some more strength to bull-rush linemen, he could be one of the top pass-rushers in college football.
The Vikings improved their defense in 2013, but Jared Allen isn't getting any younger (he'll be 32 when this pick is made), Beasley will be a great player for 2014 and beyond.
24. Cincinnati Bengals, Louis Nix (DT Notre Dame)
I expect Nix to go higher in this class if he puts together a 2013 that looked anything like his 2012. Nix is the premier big-bodied run stuffer in the class and can throw people around a bit, as he rushes the passer as well.
This is, essentially, a replacement for Domata Peko who has played well next to Geno Atkins, but could certainly be upgraded. Peko is also a free agent in 2015, and the Bengals like to rotate their linemen a lot anyway.
25. Houston Texans, Logan Thomas (QB Virginia Tech)
Fans hate the idea grabbing quarterbacks in the first round if it's not the top five, but I love this pick for the Texans. Much like Colin Kaepernick of a couple years ago, Thomas will need time to come in and learn at the NFL level. (Note: I'm not comparing his talent level to Kaepernick, just the situation.)
For the Texans, who are likely coming off another playoff berth and potentially another AFC South crown, this pick is for the future—a player who can come in and play a limited set of plays as he learns the system (a system he fits perfectly, might I add, because of his mobility) while he learns from Matt Schaub who will be going on 33 when this pick is made.
26. Seattle Seahawks, DeVante Parker (WR Louisville)
If you don't know who Parker is, get ready. He's set up to be Teddy Bridgewater's top target in 2013, and he's dynamic, athletic, tracks the ball well, runs well with the ball and has incredible size (6'2", 205 pounds). He'll make a name for himself this season.
The Seahawks would be lucky to get an upside player to pair with (supplant?) Sidney Rice as their top outside target as Percy Harvin continues to be a dynamic playmaker on the inside.
27. Green Bay Packers, Aaron Colvin (CB Oklahoma)
Colvin flirted with the idea of coming out in the 2013 draft and could've been a high second-round pick from the looks of what happened in the draft. He's a candidate for the Jim Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in 2013 and has legitimate NFL cover skills. He has experience as a safety and some teams may project him there.
The Packers have focused on their defensive front seven in recent years, but it's time to add a defensive back in the upper rounds to keep the ball in front of him. At 6'0" with nice length, Colvin has the ability to guard receivers like Brandon Marshall, Greg Jennings and Calvin Johnson.
28. New England Patriots, Ryan Shazier (OLB Ohio State)
Another Ohio State player in the first round means I'm probably predicting a pretty good year for them in 2013 (runner-up to Alabama? Probably), but I don't know if I'd peg Shazier as a first-rounder for any other team. He's the kind of multi-tool player that Belichick loves, however, and has upside as a pass-rusher, which is something the Patriots need to continue to add.
Small at under 230 pounds, Shazier won't be able to put his hand in the dirt at the next level but has the athleticism and coverage ability to be an outside linebacker in either a 3-4 or a 4-3. He could also see snaps as a sub-package safety if a team is looking to go big.
29. Baltimore Ravens, Cody Hoffman (WR Brigham Young)
Anquan Boldin left in 2013, his close approximation is making his way to Baltimore in this scenario.
Hoffman is a receiver who has more talent than measurables and gives maximum effort on every snap. He's a natural pass-catcher who plucks the ball away from his body and secures it before the run—almost instinctively at this point.
He'll give the Ravens a fantastic No. 2 receiver next to Torrey Smith.
30. Atlanta Falcons, Morgan Breslin (DE USC)
I love Breslin as a collegiate player, but like I do with many at USC, I question whether he'll have the tools to match his collegiate production at the next level. He has a great first step, however, and great effort through the whistle. At the very least, he could be a great strong-side defense end in the NFL.
The Falcons added quantity at the defensive back position in the 2013 draft, but weren't able to land an elite pass-rusher. Breslin may not be as elite a rusher as they want, but he'll be a fantastic grab at No. 30.
31. Denver Broncos, Max Bullough (LB Michigan State)
Bullough is flying under the radar on a Michigan State team that underachieved a bit in 2012. I expect him to be one of the top interior linebacker prospects in the 2014 draft and a player who can step in right away at any linebacker position.
He's tough, athletic and ridiculously smart. He'll have that little green dot on his helmet (the player communicating with coaches on the field) in no time and could end up as the Broncos defensive captain by his third season.
32. San Francisco 49ers, Daniel McCullers (DT Tennessee)
Another projection, as McCullers had a good (but not great) season at Tennessee after transferring from Georgia Military College. He started seven games for the Vols and led their linemen in tackles. At 6'8", 360 pounds, he's likely going to be the biggest player in the 2014 draft class.
This is the "planet theory." There are only a few people on this small planet we call Earth that have the size and athleticism of McCullers. You want those guys on your football team. His ability to plug up the middle and collapse pockets will work perfectly with the rest of the 49ers defense.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.