2014 NFL Draft: Updated First-Round Projection
The NFL regular season is starting to wrap things up, and that means it is time to update the latest 2014 NFL draft projections with a new mock draft. Big news out of college football this week means big changes in the first-round projection.
Perhaps the biggest news of the week is that Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has chosen to return to school for his junior season. This, paired with a torn ACL by LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, means that there is the potential for a lot of fresh names in the first round.
As more players start to hint that they're going to either declare or return to school, the landscape of the first round could change dramatically. It's also important to understand that this is a projection of what may occur, not a selection based on personal preference.
Fortunately, thanks to social media websites like Twitter, getting feedback on team needs and selections is almost immediate and, oftentimes, quite telling. However, in many cases, there is tremendous disagreement, even among a team's fanbase, regarding the best way to proceed.
So, with that, let's take a look at this latest one-round projection for the 2014 NFL draft, with the order based on the results at the end of the previous week.
1. Houston Texans
Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End, South Carolina
There's a strong temptation here to put a quarterback at this pick for the Houston Texans. There will be a new head coach in place next season, and oftentimes, a new coach wants his guy under center.
The question has to be about the value of the pick. Is drafting a quarterback here the best use of the Texans' choice? Or are they better off going with the player many consider the top player in the draft, regardless of position?
When you talk about an impact, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has the potential to be a terror in the league for many years. And when you consider that he could be lined up opposite Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, the notion of bringing him in over a quarterback becomes too hard to resist.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars
Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback, Louisville
While the Jacksonville Jaguars have been putting up a great fight this season, this is still a team in need of a drastic makeover. Because the moves need to be drastic, don't be shocked if the Jaguars choose to pass on Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and trade back a few spots in order to stockpile picks for the overhaul.
Nevertheless, if they do sit tight, it's hard to imagine there's a player higher on their board than Bridgewater. That's not to say he's a perfect prospect, because he isn't. What Bridgewater is, however, is polished. He is game-ready and poised. There are some physical parts of his game that will need to be coached up, but in terms of everything going on from the neck up, there's no quarterback close in this draft.
St. Louis Rams (from Washington)
Anthony Barr, Linebacker, UCLA
Doubts about the skill players on the St. Louis Rams have been quieted this season, as they have been able to move the football, even with backup quarterback Kellen Clemens under center. What this means for the draft is that they Rams can instead look at bolstering a sometimes soft defense.
But who will the team take?
If the Rams really want to add some punch to their defense, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr might just fit the bill. His game and body aren't ideal for just any NFL system, but as a pure stand-up linebacker who freelances and rushes from multiple spots, Barr has the potential to be a star.
4. Atlanta Falcons
Jake Matthews, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
There might not be a bigger shock in the NFL this season than the fall of the Atlanta Falcons. Part of that quick tumble has to be attributed to the problems with the offensive line. That, along with the play of the defensive ends, has really held back what is a pretty talented roster.
The Falcons have been playing a ton of rookies, and while one could assume things look brighter for next season, a few spots will need to be shored up in the draft.
One of those spots is left tackle, and that's where Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews comes in. Matthews is a natural left tackle prospect who is really setting himself apart from the rest of this class. He is a model of consistency and proper technique at the tackle position. He has a nice mix of power and athleticism as well, but it's that he's almost never out of position or caught using bad technique that sets him apart.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson
At this point, it is safe to assume that, going forward, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to go forward with Mike Glennon as their starting quarterback and therefore won't draft one with this pick. Glennon is showing nice development, especially when you consider how limited his options are at the skill positions.
To help with that, the Buccaneers will select Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Watkins is another prospect who appears to be creating some distance between himself and the other wide receivers in this class. His ability to get open and the things he can do with the football in his hands keep him a notch ahead of the rest of the group.
6. Minnesota Vikings
Derek Carr, Quarterback, Fresno State
If the Minnesota Vikings are going to ever take advantage of having running back Adrian Peterson on the roster, they must get a quarterback who can run this offense. There is plenty of talent at the skill positions to win every week, just no one under center who can take advantage of it.
Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr is the hot name right now. His strong arm and textbook mechanics, paired with his ridiculous statistics, have opened lots of eyes. There are legitimate questions about Carr's decision-making and poise in the pocket, but for a team in dire need of a quarterback, don't be shocked if he goes this high.
7. Cleveland Browns
Tajh Boyd, Quarterback, Clemson
Yet another team with talent all over the roster that cannot turn the corner because of its quarterback. The Cleveland Browns have one of the best young wide receivers in the game in Josh Gordon and a quality tight end in Jordan Cameron. The piece they are missing is someone to deliver the football.
Some might consider Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd a reach this early in the round. However, he has two things working in his favor. First, the need for quarterbacks is at an all-time high, which could elevate his draft stock. Second, Boyd is playing in the Senior Bowl and has a chance to really open a lot of eyes to just how much potential he has.
If he can pull together a big week in Mobile, Ala., don't be shocked if he goes this high.
8. Oakland Raiders
Khalil Mack, Linebacker, Buffalo
The Oakland Raiders have needs. Lots of needs. They are almost certainly in search of a quarterback, but at this point, it's hard to see them pulling the trigger on the next best one. Instead, the Raiders can turn their attention to defense and bring in an elite pass-rusher to bolster the unit.
It's tough to imagine one of the most explosive defensive players is a MAC defensive end, but Buffalo defensive end Khalil Mack is the real deal. Mack is a hybrid end who could find himself playing linebacker in the base defense and putting his hand on the ground and rushing the passer on passing downs.
9. Buffalo Bills
C.J. Mosley, Linebacker, Alabama
It's tough to find a lot of glaring holes with the Buffalo Bills roster. There are spots that could use additional depth, or even an upgrade here or there, but there is not one spot that stands out.
So, instead, they'll turn to the best player on the board regardless of position and draft Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley. Mosley would line up nicely on the outside paired up with inside linebacker Kiko Alonso. He can do most anything on the field and would be an immediate upgrade.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers
Greg Robinson, Offensive Tackle, Auburn
The decision to put an offensive tackle at this pick is far from an automatic one. Yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers desperately need to upgrade their talent at tackle. And yes, Auburn's Greg Robinson is one of the most talented young tackles in all of college football and would almost certainly start from the get-go.
However, the Steelers have committed high picks to multiple offensive linemen in recent drafts with limited return on their investment. They could choose to go another direction and draft a wide receiver or even a player for the defensive secondary.
11. Tennessee Titans
Taylor Lewan, Offensive Tackle, Michigan
There are really two directions the Tennessee Titans can go with this pick. If they don't feel like they can count on any of their current quarterbacks long term, then a quarterback selection here would make sense.
However, if they are settled at quarterback, they would instead turn their attention to upgrading their offensive line with Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan. Lewan is an experienced veteran tackle who has tremendous upside. His technique is still raw, but he has all the physical gifts you look for in a franchise left tackle.
12. New York Jets
Mike Evans, Wide Receiver, Texas A&M
New York Jets fans look to be stuck with quarterback Geno Smith and head coach Rex Ryan for the foreseeable future. And if they are going to go forward with Smith, the least they can do is get him some weapons on offense.
Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans is a huge target with some impressive physical gifts. He is far from the most polished prospect, but his raw physical talent makes his selection enticing at this point in the round for a team that needs more weapons.
13. San Diego Chargers
Brandon Scherff, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
Finding a consensus opinion about the San Diego Chargers and their top need has proven to be a challenge. The team really needs help at cornerback, but it could also stand an upgrade at left tackle.
In the end, it came down to value at the two positions.
Scherff is a great young player who does everything right. He is very much your typical hard-working, fundamentally sound football player who will start for 10 years for some team. He is a great mix of power and technique who can run or pass-block at a very high level.
14. New York Giants
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Cornerback, Oregon
The New York Giants are one of those teams that have multiple positions of need, so where they end up selecting could dictate what position they choose here. Value dictates the position here, as the top cornerback could still be on the board at their pick.
Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is a former safety who displays excellent ball skills and an aggressive, physical game. Over the course of the season, he has continued to improve his coverage technique and should continue to work his way up draft boards.
15. St. Louis Rams
Louis Nix III, Defensive Tackle, Notre Dame
With the Rams' second pick in the round, they'll continue to retool the defensive side of the football. This time, they'll look to the defensive line and add Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III.
Nix will slide a little due to a potential injury concern, but make no mistake, at full health, he is one of the most disruptive interior linemen in the country.
16. Green Bay Packers
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Safety, Alabama
There was a time when this pick looked more and more like it would end up an offensive tackle. However, the Green Bay Packers offensive line has continued to improve as the season has progressed. This leaves the door open for the Packers to add a player in the defensive secondary who brings coverage skills as well as strength in run support.
Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a superb mix of skills with excellent size and speed. He has an excellent resume, having cut his teeth against SEC competition, and looks very much NFL-ready.
17. Chicago Bears
Ra'Shede Hageman, Defensive Tackle, Minnesota
When the draft actually occurs in May, don't be shocked if Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman is long gone by this pick. It seems like, every week, he shows off more of the flashes of his unlimited upside.
The Chicago Bears would be very fortunate if they could snatch Hageman up, as he has shown that he can rush the passer from a tackle or end position with equal violence and disruption.
18. Baltimore Ravens
Darqueze Dennard, Cornerback, Michigan State
Going over the Baltimore Ravens roster, it seems as if cornerback and wide receiver are the key positions of need going into the 2014 season. Looking at value at both positions, Michigan State Darqueze Dennard grades out much higher than any remaining wide receiver.
Dennard is a complete cornerback with a very nice mix of speed and size, as well as above-average instincts and a very high ceiling.
19. Miami Dolphins
Cyrus Kouandjio, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
After all of the turnover along the Miami Dolphins offensive line, adding talent at offensive tackle seems like a no-brainer. Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio started off a little slow this season, but as he has progressed, he's displayed much quicker feet, better lateral agility and is using his hands much better. He should be able to come in as a rookie and contribute right away.
20. Detroit Lions
Jason Verrett, Cornerback, TCU
For all the talent the Detroit Lions have in their defensive front seven, the secondary continues to let the team down. The Lions need to add a cornerback in a hurry, as the current group gives up far too many plays. This would allow them even more freedom in their pressures.
TCU cornerback Jason Verrett is one of the top coverage players in the entire draft. He lacks some of the elite athleticism that the other top cornerbacks possess, but he makes up for it with sound technique and fundamentals. Verrett is another player who could really benefit from a big offseason.
21. Philadelphia Eagles
Bradley Roby, Cornerback, Ohio State
There is a real temptation here to add a wide receiver to that high-powered Philadelphia Eagles offense. There is a chance that the Eagles could lose some wide receivers in the offseason, so don't rule out a wideout here.
This time around, the Eagles choose to strengthen their weakest group: the defensive backs.
Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby could slip a little due to some coverage lapses this season, but he has something you cannot coach: speed. And that elite speed could make a team like Philadelphia overlook some of his coverage problems.
22. Dallas Cowboys
Anthony Johnson, Defensive Tackle, LSU
Judging by Twitter, some Dallas Cowboys fans want this pick to be a quarterback to replace Tony Romo. But the reality is that Romo is a very good quarterback and he's not going anywhere.
A position the Cowboys do need to upgrade is defensive tackle. Neither Jason Hatcher nor Nick Hayden is the type of player the Cowboys need in the middle of the 4-3 defense.
LSU defensive tackle Anthony Johnson is going to need a big offseason to justify this lofty spot, but he has all the potential in the world as an interior pass rusher. He just needs to put it all together.
23. Arizona Cardinals
Antonio Richardson, Offensive Tackle, Tennessee
As much as it might make sense, there is no way the Arizona Cardinals are drafting the next-best quarterback at this point in the round. Carson Palmer has played well enough to earn another year as the starter. He has also played well enough to get some help on the offensive line to protect him.
Tennessee offensive tackle Anthony Richardson is a terrific all-around player. He's got very good feet as a pass protector, shows tremendous power in the run game and has violent hands to keep defenders at bay.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State
Looking over the Cincinnati Bengals roster, there aren't many holes on this team. The front office has done a really nice job of building along the lines and working its way out.
This time around, the Bengals choose to bring some youth and athleticism to an aging secondary.
Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert might be the best overall athlete of any of the top cornerbacks. The team's offense gets all the press, but Gilbert is a great cover corner. He's big enough to handle big NFL wideouts but has the speed to run with smaller players.
25. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis)
Marqise Lee, Wide Receiver, USC
After getting their quarterback of the future with their first pick in the round, the Browns come back to give him an additional weapon. USC wide receiver Marqise Lee has slipped some this season by no fault of his own, but he would represent a great value at this point in the round.
Lee is a sneaky good athlete and a physical, punishing run-blocker. He just needs to become more consistent with his routes and show more concentration at times.
26. Carolina Panthers
Jace Amaro, Tight End, Texas Tech
The Carolina Panthers have built a smothering defense and are starting to get pieces in place around franchise quarterback Cam Newton. There was a temptation to go with a wide receiver here as an eventual replacement for 34-year old Steve Smith. And, come May, it won't be a shock if that's the pick.
However, in terms of talent and value for the selection, it's hard to argue against Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro. He would provide Newton with a big target in the passing game and a matchup nightmare in the middle of the field.
27. Kansas City Chiefs
Odell Beckham, Wide Receiver, LSU
Since it looks like the Kansas City Chiefs will continue to struggle on offense, this pick needs to focus on a player who can impact the offense immediately.
LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham is a fantastic mix of size and speed, and he has some of the best hands in the nation. Beckham has a knack for making super athletic plays and would give the Chiefs a threat in the route they just don't have right now.
28. San Francisco 49ers
Jordan Matthews, Wide Receiver, Vanderbilt
The one spot on the San Francisco 49ers where they are lacking in talent is at wide receiver. Even with players returning from injury, this group does not measure up to others in the NFC.
Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt is one of the more underrated wideouts in the country. He would provide a big athletic target for quarterback Colin Kaepernick. A strength of Matthews' game is working against coverage, as he sees constant double teams every week.
29. New England Patriots
Cyril Richardson, Guard, Baylor
When the New England Patriots are on the clock, it's always a mystery what direction they will go in. There's a real possibility they could take a defensive tackle or wide receiver with this pick. Both would fill needs and make perfect sense.
Nonetheless, when a player like Baylor guard Cyril Richardson slides this far, the Patriots are too smart to let him slip any further.
Richardson is easily the top guard in the draft and would be in the mix right away, adding youth to an aging interior offensive line.
30. New Orleans Saints
Allen Robinson, Wide Receiver, Penn State
For all the praise the New Orleans Saints offense gets, the wide receivers haven't played great. With Marques Colston and Lance Moore both now 30, it is time to find some more young talent. There are several very talented receivers still available here at the end of the round for the Saints to pick from.
Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson gets the nod here over some other players due in large part to his size. At 6'3", he has a long frame and plus catch radius. Robinson also excels at running multiple routes and has strong active hands.
31. Denver Broncos
Loucheiz Purifoy, Cornerback, Florida
Picking at the end of the round like the Denver Broncos likely will means that things went pretty well over the course of the previous season. It also means that there aren't likely to be any real significant holes on the roster.
This gives them the team freedom to take a shot on Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy. When he is on, Purifoy is the most dynamic and explosive defensive back in this draft. He just needs to be coached up so that he can maximize all that potential.
32. Seattle Seahawks
Cedric Ogbuehi, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
This Seattle Seahawks team isn't one you can punch many holes in personnel-wise. It is balanced on both sides of the football, and the roster is very deep. With that, adding some talent at offensive tackle seems to make the most sense at this point.
Should Texas A&M offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi decide to declare, and if he lasts until the final pick of the first round, he could be a great pick for the Seahawks. He is a phenomenal athlete at tackle and shows great skill in blocking for a passing game that is run by a mobile quarterback and his unique skills.