2014 NFL Mock Draft: Predicting 1st-Round Picks with Bowl Season Concluding

R. Cory Smith@@RCorySmithSenior Writer IJanuary 5, 2014

With just two games remaining in the bowl season, several shifts have already been made in NFL mock drafts. While some players saw their stock rise thanks to memorable performances, others slid down draft boards due to lackluster games and underwhelming numbers.

Players like Blake Bortles and Sammy Watkins are now household names—in football cities with a top-five pick at least—and guys like Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel are now being debated heavily as to who will be the better professional quarterback.

With teams searching for the next big superstar—and man, could some teams use one—here are predictions for every team's first-round selection with the bowl season coming to a close.


1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Teddy Bridgewater solidified his spot as the No. 1 quarterback in the 2014 NFL draft, torching Miami for a total of 447 passing yards, four total touchdowns and zero picks.

Following the performance, ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported that the Louisville junior will forego his final season and enter the draft, as ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted out:

But others also made a huge impression. Players like Bortles and Manziel having notable games means several franchises are willing to take a chance on one of them, including the Houston Texans.

With needs at both quarterback and on the defensive side of the ball, Houston is willing to trade the No. 1 pick to move down, as Schefter reported:

Whether or not the Texans move down, Bridgewater is still the top quarterback in this year's draft and would go No. 1 overall if Houston stays put.


2. St. Louis Rams (From Washington Redskins): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

There are several holes the Rams could look to fill here. Needing a taller, stronger wide receiver, they could go Sammy Watkins. With questions about Sam Bradford, they could go quarterback. But looking to protect assets like Zac Stacy and Bradford could be the best way to go.

This might be the perfect position for the Rams to pull another trade with a team that falls in love with a quarterback and doesn't want him to fall to the Jacksonville Jaguars—like the Minnesota Vikings—but adding Jake Matthews to the team is definitely a safe pick.


3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

Blake Bortles and the UCF Knights were fantastic in the Fiesta Bowl. Though he did throw two interceptions, Bortles threw for over 300 yards, three touchdowns and rushed one in for another score. The only problem? I already had him tabbed as the No. 3 pick and can't move him up.

Thanks to living up to those lofty expectations, Bortles solidified his spot as one of the top quarterbacks in the draft. Without as much polish as players like Bridgewater or even Manziel, it's easy to see how he could be overshadowed, but Bortles looks like the next in line for signal-callers after Bridgewater.


4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Now for the man that is nipping at Bortles and Bridgewater's heels, Johnny Football. Though it still doesn't make a lot of sense for the Cleveland Browns to jump on Manziel or any other quarterback if they like someone they could get with the 23rd pick, this is Cleveland we're talking about.

Manziel has been put up on a pedestal for his performances on the field and knocked right back off it for his times in the public eye. With a new coach coming in this season, he will likely be looking to make a big splash with his future quarterback.

After his performance against Duke and his outstanding two-year career, Manziel has certainly earned the billing as one of the top five quarterbacks this season.


5. Oakland Raiders: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Despite their holes at quarterback and, well, several other positions, the likelihood of them passing up on Jadeveon Clowney doesn't seem very high. While there were questions about his effort and off-the-field issues this season, Clowney is still seen as possibly the best prospect in this class.


6. Atlanta Falcons: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

After mulling over it several times and looking at the Atlanta Falcons as a team, it just doesn't make sense for them to not go with Anthony Barr. Not only would he be the most talented player remaining, but Barr is also a player that fills a need for the Falcons and could help them right away in a division that includes the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers—two top-five defenses this season.


7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Sammy Watkins was already seen as the No. 1 wide receiver in the draft and actually outperformed all other receivers in his bowl game to maintain that spot. But with teams drafting for needs early, which is why there are three quarterbacks in the first four picks, Watkins is still likely to drop out of the top five.

Whether Mike Glennon is seen as the franchise quarterback of the future for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' next head coach, Sammy Watkins is a huge asset for any team looking to spread the field. Watkins' speed, size and playmaking ability make him a can't-miss prospect that fills a need for Tampa Bay.

Added to a receiving corps that already includes the experience of Vincent Jackson on one side and a young Timothy Wright at the tight end position, Watkins can be the one piece down the field the Buccaneers are missing.


8. Minnesota Vikings: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

For anyone who has read my previous mock drafts, this is clearly the biggest change. But what Brett Hundley did in his bowl game was prove that both his arm and legs are worthy of a top-10 pick. And while Derek Carr faltered, Hundley picked up steam.

In terms of a pro comparison, Hundley has drawn comparisons to several quarterbacks, but the one to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick seems to be the best fit. Charles Davis of NFL.com even went so far as to say there might be things that Hundley is better at than Kaepernick was at the college level:

When I watch him play, he reminds of one of the NFL's brightest young stars -- San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. In fact, I think Hundley is much more polished as a passer at this stage of his career than Kaepernick was at Nevada. Hundley doesn't run as well as Kaepernick, but he's a good runner; he's a pass-first quarterback that can run.

While the redshirt sophomore certainly isn't a lock to enter the draft, his draft stock appears to be on the rise up many boards. His 226 passing yards, 161 rushing yards and two total touchdowns in the Sun Bowl against a team that ranked in the top 10 in the country in scoring defense certainly helped.


9. Buffalo Bills: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

One of the most impressive defensive prospects in the entire draft, Khalil Mack would make the move from Buffalo University to the Buffalo Bills a seamless one. With an already impressive unit that includes Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and standout rookie Kiko Alonso, the Bills could have one of the best young defenses in the NFL with the addition of Mack.


10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Darqueze Dennard didn't have a huge game in terms of statistics for Michigan State in the Rose Bowl, but he did his part to keep Stanford to just 20 points in the contest. For a defense that gave up 247 passing yards per game, the Lions desperately need a cornerback. To me, Dennard is still the top corner in the draft.


11. Tennessee Titans: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

Consider me a believer now. After watching Kony Ealy dominate the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Cotton Bowl, I'm sold on the junior, who officially made the decision to forego his senior season to enter the draft following the game, according to David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune:

Ealy finished with two sacks and six total tackles in the Cotton Bowl, which made his decision to leave nearly perfect timing.

With the Titans not having explosive ends on either side of the defensive line, Ealy would come in and immediately make an impact.


12. New York Giants: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

With needs at quite a few key positions, it's easy to see how the New York Giants could go with several different choices here. But with a need at the linebacker position and C.J. Mosley still available, this seems like the perfect fit for the Giants.


13. St. Louis Rams: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon

With another chance make a splashy pick, the Rams will remain conservative as they choose Ifo Ekpre-Olomu with the 13th overall selection. With players like Justin Gilbert still on the board, it's difficult to figure out which corner will emerge out of the crop. But Ekpre-Olomu looks like a corner who can play man and physically frustrate wide receivers at the next level.


14. Chicago Bears: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

Though he is still mulling over his decision, Stephon Tuitt remains one of the best defensive ends in the draft. His performance in the Pinstripe Bowl (four tackles, 1.5 sacks) certainly helped his stock, and with the Bears needing to basically restructure at several positions, Tuitt could be a difference-maker.


15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

As one reader pointed out earlier in the week, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked much less near the end of the season. But when your quarterback finishes the year getting sacked a total of 42 times, there is still a need to protect him. Cyrus Kouandjio is the man to hold the line for both Roethlisberger and a running game that includes an explosive Le'Veon Bell.


16. Baltimore Ravens: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

The Baltimore Ravens currently have a quarterback starving for a physical wide receiver after they let go of Anquan Boldin. Luckily for Joe Flacco, Mike Evans officially declared for the draft, according to ESPN:

At 6'5", 220 pounds, Mike Evans is not only a physical presence but also one of the most lethal receivers in the college game. Evans' playmaking ability isn't on par with either Sammy Watkins or Marqise Lee, but he is certainly a dependable target for Flacco.


17. Dallas Cowboys: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama

The Dallas Cowboys were horrendous in pass defense during the 2013 season. After ranking 30th in total yards allowed and touchdowns in the passing game, the secondary needs some serious work. At 6'1", 208 pounds, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has great hands, vision and the ability to read a quarterback's eyes. He would almost certainly improve that atrocious pass defense.


18. New York Jets: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Marqise Lee might have relinquished the throne of the No. 1 wide receiver in the draft to Sammy Watkins and could be the third receiver taken, but his talent is still ridiculous. Lee finally returned to form in the Las Vegas Bowl, finishing with seven receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Fresno State.

The New York Jets are void of playmakers who can stretch the field and take some of the pressure off Geno Smith. If the Jets really want to turn things around immediately under Rex Ryan, Lee should be their first pick.


19. Miami Dolphins: Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State

Ryan Tannehill was great during the 2013 season. Unfortunately, he spent most of it on his back as he was sacked 58 times for a total of 399 yards lost, more than any other player on the season. In order for the Miami Dolphins to take the next step toward making the playoffs, they will need to shore up the offensive line. Cameron Erving is more than capable of filling that void.


20. Arizona Cardinals: Zack Martin, OG, Notre Dame

With talent at the running back position thanks to Rashard Mendenhall and rookie Andre Ellington, the Arizona Cardinals need a player who can effectively open up lanes to move the ball down the field. If the Cardinals decide to go with Martin, they will be getting a player who can not only open up those lanes but also do it at an MVP level.


21. Green Bay Packers: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

The biggest drop in this mock draft is from Eric Ebron. While the most talented tight end in this draft didn't do anything to earn the drop, the shift between Kony Ealy and C.J. Mosley made it so that the most likely team to take a tight end earlier than the Packers went defensive.

What Eric Ebron brings to the table is not only a great playmaking ability but also an ability to haul in just about any pass thrown his way. With Aaron Rodgers healthy again and a need for playmakers to control the middle of the field, Ebron would fit the Packers perfectly.

With the future of Jermichael Finley in question after a spinal injury this season, the Green Bay Packers need to have an insurance plan.


22. San Diego Chargers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Simply put: The San Diego Chargers passing defense needs help. Justin Gilbert, who has better size than most corners in this year's draft, has proven himself as one of the best corners in the draft. Whether he ends up going earlier or Dennard or Ekpre-Olomu drop down, the Chargers will go with a defensive back.


23. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

The New Orleans Saints defense went from worst in NFL history in 2012 to a top-five group in 2013. In order to continue that upward move, a player like Ryan Shazier would add a playmaking linebacker who can cover the field and is a sure tackler. Lacking consistency at the position, the Saints would be foolish to pass on Shazier if he does fall this far in the draft.


24. Kansas City Chiefs: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

With Ebron falling in the draft, so too does Jace Amaro. But he won't fall very far, as the Kansas City Chiefs have a need at the position and will snatch up a safety valve for Alex Smith.

After finishing the season with 1,352 yards, breaking the receiving record by a college tight end, and tallying seven touchdowns for the Red Raiders, Amaro would be a perfect fit for a Chiefs team that's been void of a playmaking tight end since losing Tony Gonzalez.


25. Philadelphia Eagles: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson

The Philadelphia Eagles have dominated teams all season with their offense and don't appear to have any true holes on that side of the ball. Their defense, on the other hand, could use some work. With Vic Beasley sliding down draft boards because of other great players taken earlier in the draft, the Eagles would be wise to snatch him up and fill one of those holes immediately.


26. Cleveland Browns (From Indianapolis Colts): Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State

The Cleveland Browns would love to see Marqise Lee drop to this pick, but for Browns fans, adding Allen Robinson to an already lethal receiving corps would certainly make up for trading Trent RichardsonAt 6'3", 210 pounds, Robinson would make a great option alongside the likes of Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon for whoever the Browns have at quarterback.


27. Cincinnati Bengals: E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri

The Cincinnati Bengals been one of the best defenses in the NFL this season. But to continue dominating their own division, the Bengals would need to bring in reinforcements for players like Terence Newman, who are aging out.

If the Bengals add E.J. Gaines, who is a fantastic corner who can cover just about any receiver in the college game, they would bolster a stout defense that already ranks No. 1 in the AFC this season.


28. New England Patriots: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU

With an offense that is already loaded with young talent like Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, Odell Beckham Jr. could come in and be the leading receiver in two or three years for the New England Patriots.

Beckham plays much more like a tight end than a wide receiver—similar to Evans from Texas A&M—but he certainly has the playmaking ability to make Tom Brady happy. With the likely return of Rob Gronkowski next season and Beckham alongside him clogging up the middle, smaller receivers like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola can continue to thrive.

Paired with the receiving corps that the Patriots already possess, Beckham could flourish under Bill Belichick and Brady.


29. San Francisco 49ers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Make no mistake about it, the San Francisco 49ers already have a defense that can win championships. But with a player like Jason Verrett in the secondary, a defense that finished seventh this past season in pass defense would get even better.

30. Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

At just 5'10", Brandin Cooks is actually an inch taller than Steve Smith and has the same explosiveness the Carolina Panthers wide receiver had coming out of college.

Cooks has put together two straight seasons with over 1,100 yards, but this season was spectacular. The junior hauled in 128 receptions for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also showed he has big-play potential every time he touches the ball, as he rushed for 217 yards and two touchdowns for the Beavers.

Not to say that anyone will ever perfectly fill Smith's shoes in Panthers fans' hearts, but Cooks is certainly another great receiver to add to the stable for Cam Newton.


31. Denver Broncos: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

The Denver Broncos have a wealth of talent on defense but were ultimately unable to turn that into a top-10 defense again in the NFL. With Louis Nix III, the defense would fill a huge hole on the line and have a player who can immediately be a part of the starting lineup coming out of college.


32. Seattle Seahawks: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

The Seattle Seahawks have thrived defensively for the past few seasons thanks to a great secondary. While the front seven is still mostly young and has room to improve, Ra'Shede Hageman is a defensive playmaker who is willing to throw his body around to get stops. Adding Hageman could allow the defensive line to flourish and eventually catch up to the corners and safeties.


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