2014 NFL Mock Draft: Start of Fall Practice Edition

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02:  Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Louisville Cardinals looks to pass against the Florida Gators during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 2, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

With most, if not all, college football teams putting together their final preparations for the season, it's a great time to take a look at where the best NFL prospects stack up before the season starts. 

Obviously, draft stock is always a fluid concept (remember when Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas looked like he was good at football?). But that doesn't mean we can't get a good idea of who still needs to do more to improve their stock and who will have to keep their stock high throughout the season. 

Using Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller's power rankings as a guide for the draft order, here's a look at where each first round prospect should fall if the NFL held the draft today. 


1. Oakland Raiders: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

Jadeveon Clowney is the best prosepect in this year's draft class and should go No. 1 if the Raiders are the team on the clock.

It's going to be nearly impossible for Jadeveon Clowney to live up to the incredible hype that surrounds him after the infamous hit that he laid on Michigan running back Vincent Smith, but he's a proven producer with 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for a loss to his name last season. 

Answering the question at quarterback will obviously be a concern if they have the first pick, but the presence of 2013 fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson and 24-year-old Terrelle Pryor might be enough to make them go best-player-available. 


2. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

At this point, it appears that Blaine Gabbert's ceiling is "serviceable". That's great if you're going to be an NFL backup, but the Jaguars need a player that can lead the team to new heights offensively. Chad Henne won't be that guy either. 

Bridgewater can be the hero that Jacksonville needs and deserves. He's an incredibly composed passer in the pocket who runs a diverse offense at Louisville with consistency and efficiency. He threw just eight interceptions to 27 touchdowns last season.

He'll definitely push Clowney for the No. 1 spot in the draft because he's a quarterback whose game should translate to the NFL right away.


3. Buffalo Bills: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan

Doug Marrone and Co. went out and picked up their franchise quarterback in EJ Manuel in 2013, now they need to get an insurance policy. Lewan could have entered 2013's tackle-heavy draft and been selected in the top 10. With another year to prove he's the top tackle in the country, he could earn himself a top three slot. 


4. Tennessee Titans: QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson

If the Titans are drafting in the top five just one year after beefing up the offensive line with Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack, it's probably time for them to move on from Jake Locker. This season will be his third with the Titans and should be expected to show serious development. 

Boyd is comparable to the San Francisco 49er's Colin Kaepernick in that he comes from a college system that utilizes a lot of option out of the pistol and has the arm strength to make every throw. He needs to improve his decision making and accuracy (13 interceptions in 2012), but he's definitely among the top quarterbacks in the nation. 


5. Cleveland Browns: DE Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame

It's not often that a 5-technique in a 3-4 defense gathers a whole lot of sacks. The Houston Texans J.J. Watt leads the shortlist in the NFL, but Tuitt did just that by racking up 11 sacks at Notre Dame last year. At 6'6" and 322 pounds, Tuitt has an incredible combination of size and athleticism that makes him an ideal defensive end/tackle for Ray Horton's multiple scheme. 

Combined with Athyba Rubin, Phil Taylor, Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard, the Browns would have one of the best front sevens in the league for years to come. 


6. San Diego Chargers: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

The Chargers drafted D.J. Fluker in the 2013 draft, but he's a pure right tackle. Matthews played right tackle for the Aggies last season, but will get the opportunity to show that he can protect the blindside after Luke Joeckel's departure. 

With the addition of Matthews, the Chargers will have taken their greatest weakness the last few seasons to their greatest strength. 


7. Detroit Lions: OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama

If we learned anything from the 2013 draft it's that teams are not afraid to get involved in a run on offensive tackles. In this scenario, the Lions still get an excellent anchor despite taking the third best tackle in the class.

At 6'6", 310 pounds with just 16 percent body fat, he's the perfect blend of size and athleticism to be a franchise left tackle. 


8. Arizona Cardinals: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA

The Cardinals relied on middle linebacker Daryl Washington for sacks last season. He led the team with nine, while Sam Acho led all outside linebackers in sacks with just four. That would immediately change with Barr on the roster. 

The former running back notched 13 sacks last season and will only get better as he fills out his 6'4", 235-pound frame and learns the ins and outs of the position. 


9. New York Jets: WR Marqise Lee, USC

The Jets have their long-term solution at quarterback in Geno Smith. Now they need to add some weapons that will allow him to flourish whenever he takes over as the starter. You won't find a more productive and explosive receiver in college football than Lee. 

The 6'0" 195-pound receiver registered his second 1,000-yard season for the Trojans last year with 118 receptions, 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns. 


10. Carolina Panthers: CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State

The Panthers have just about everything needed for a breakout team. Cam Newton is developing into a superstar quarterback, he has weapons in Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell and the defensive front seven will be stout with Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short manning the middle. 

What they lack is a strong defensive backfield. 

Roby would be a strong step towards fixing that hole. He's the best corner in the class and would instantly contribute as starter. 


11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Trent Murphy, Stanford

Lost in the hype surrounding the likes of Jadeveon Clowney and Stephon Tuitt at defensive end is a strong pass-rusher in Trent Murphy. The Stanford product can play with his hand in the dirt or as a 3-4 outside linebacker and registered 10 sacks last season. 

He should be one of the stars on a strong Cardinal defense again this year and will flirt with the top 10 of the draft. Tampa Bay could use him to upgrade either Da'Quan Bowers or Adrian Clayborn if they fail to live up to expectations. 


12. Philadelphia Eagles: DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame

Everyone knows about the Eagles move to Chip Kelly's up-tempo system on offense, but what gets overlooked is Philadelphia's transition to the 3-4 defense. The Eagles currently have Isaac Sopoaga to play the important role of nose tackle, but he's 31 years old. 

Nix is the best pure nose tackle in the draft. At 340 pounds he has the rare blend of size and athleticism required to play the position for a long time. 


13. Minnesota Vikings: QB David Fales, San Jose State

Featuring the best running back in the game, Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson and a strong offensive line, the Vikings offense has all the tools necessary for success. That is, if Christian Ponder can elevate his play to anything more than "average". 

If the Vikings don't make the playoffs that will be an indication that Ponder isn't the long-term answer at quarterback. Fales doesn't come from a traditional powerhouse, but that doesn't mean his mechanics and accuracy don't make him one of the most pro-ready quarterbacks in college football. 


14. Kansas City Chiefs: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama

Andy Reid may love offense, but there's no way he could pass up on C.J. Mosley at this point in the draft. Mosley might be the most pro-ready prospect not named Clowney in the entire class. He racked up over 100 tackles for the Tide last season and could plug in wherever the Chiefs would need him in their 3-4 alignment. 


15. Dallas Cowboys: DE Aaron Lynch, South Florida

At this point you might be saying, "Who?!", but make no mistake, Aaron Lynch will be one of the premier defensive players in the nation this season. The 6'5", 250-pound defensive end was forced to sit out last season after transferring from Notre Dame, but will have free license to hunt down quarterbacks for the Bulls this year. 

Lynch led the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in sacks as a freshman in 2011 and comes back with two years of development since then. He'll be a perfect fit in the Cowboys new Tampa 2 defense. 


16. Miami Dolphins: OT Cameron Erving, Florida State

Remember when Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson went from quarterback to tight end to offensive tackle and ended up being the fourth selection in the 2013 draft?

Cameron Erving could be a less dramatic version of Johnson this year. 

The 6'6", 320-pound left tackle came to Florida State as an undheralded 3-star defensive tackle before making the transition to the offensive line last season as a sophomore. Now he'll have a chance to show NFL talent evaluators his merit as a first-round selection. 

Drafting Erving would allow current left tackle Jonathan Martin to slide over to the right side and instantly improve the Dolphins offensive line. 


17. New York Giants: OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor

The Giants season will once again come down to the offensive line. Justin Pugh should be an upgrade on the edge, but Richardson would go a long way in improving the interior in the long-term. The big road grader from Baylor is the kind of guard that could go early in the draft. 


18. Chicago Bears: LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State

Great linebacker play has always been Chicago's calling card, but Brian Urlacher is gone and Lance Briggs is getting long in the tooth at 32 years old. Shazier is a strong fit in the 4-3 and can make plays all over the field. 


19. Indianapolis Colts: WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers

Reggie Wayne is a good, reliable target for Andrew Luck right now, but he won't be around forever. The Colts need a big possession receiver to go with the speedy T.Y. Hilton and the two young tight ends in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen for the future. 

At 6'5", 220 pounds, receivers don't come much bigger than Coleman. He would complete a scary, scary receiving corps for Luck. 


20. St. Louis Rams: QB A.J. McCarron, Alabama

If the Rams are picking here, it means that they failed to make the playoffs in Year Four of the Sam Bradford era. Bradford has shown promise in his time at St. Louis, but at some point the franchise will need to bring someone in to push him past his mediocrity. 

In this case, that's McCarron. He's a little difficult to peg because he has so much talent around him at Alabama, but he shows remarkable touch on his throws when he wants to go deep and runs a pro-style offense in Tuscaloosa. 


21. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): OG Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State

How good was the deal that the Rams made with the Washington Redskins? They'll get multiple picks in the first round yet again in 2013. In this scenario they can really take the best player on the board. 

That's Gabe Jackson. He's a 6'3", 335-pound guard that will maul defensive tackles in the NFL for a long time. 


22. Cincinnati Bengals: LB Kyle Van Noy, BYU

The Bengals area team that should enter the draft with few glaring needs as they have established or developing players at every position. However, an injection of youth at linebacker could be needed as James Harrison isn't getting any younger. 

Van Noy would be a nice fit. He led the Cougars with 13 sacks last season and registered 52 tackles. 


23. Houston Texans: LB Adrian Hubbard, Alabama

Pass-rushers aren't really a huge need for the Texans here. But when there's one as good as Hubbard still available, the rule that you can't have too many applies. Bringing on players like Hubbard would ensure that J.J. Watt doesn't see too many double teams throughout the year. 


24. New Orleans Saints: ILB A.J. Johnson, Tennessee

As long as the Saints have Drew Brees the offense will be fine. The problem is putting a defense on the field that can win in the playoffs. Inserting A.J. Johnson into the middle of their 3-4 look will go a long way towards building a tougher unit. 


25. Baltimore Ravens: TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

The Ravens will see what they have behind Dennis Pitta this season, but they might not like what they see. Seferian-Jenkins is an explosive playmaker at the position with the size to lineup on the end of the line or split out as a wide receiver. 


26. Atlanta Falcons: DE Kareem Martin, North Carolina

The Falcons are about as complete a team as you will see on offense, but still could use some young pass-rushing options on the defensive line. Martin didn't have the most production for the Tar Heels last season with just four sacks, but he has the build (6'5", 265 pounds) to make a leap this season. 


27. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Louchiez Purifoy, Florida

Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark are all on the back ends of their career and won't be top-level defensive backs for much longer. Purifoy is the most talented defensive back available and would be the perfect pick for the team at this juncture. 


28. Green Bay Packers: OT James Hurst, North Carolina

Aaron Rodgers is going to be the most important player for the Packers as long as he's with the team. So it only makes sense that the Packers are going to use as many resources as necessary to protect him. If that means using a first-round pick on a tackle that they don't necessarily need, then so be it. 


29. New England Patriots: CB Jason Verrett, TCU

Jason Verrett is the top cornerback in a league that loves to throw the ball around. Bill Belichick will trot out Alfonzo Dennard and Aqib Talib as his starting corners this season, but will need someone to step up as a consistent nickleback. 

It's never a bad idea to stock up on capable corners and that's exactly what Belichick does here. 


30. Seattle Seahawks: WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

The Seahawks have already found out that Percy Harvin's health makes him unreliable from week to week, so the task of surrounding Russell Wilson with weapons remains incomplete. Jordan Matthews is a big target at 6'3", 205 pounds and has the speed to stretch the field. 


31. Denver Broncos: S HaHa Clinton-Dix, Alabama

The one apparent need that the Broncos didn't address in the 2013 offseason was depth in the defensive backfield. Clinton-Dix is the top safety in this year's class and would instantly give the Broncos the playmaker that they don't have at the position. 


32. San Francisco 49ers: DT Anthony Johnson, LSU

The 49ers have built a successful franchise by putting extra emphasis on the front seven defensively. Anthony Johnson doesn't necessarily fill a need, but he provides some depth behind Justin Smith and Ray McDonald going forward. 


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