Mel Kiper 2014 NFL Mock Draft: Reviewing ESPN Guru's Latest Predictions

Kenny DeJohn@@kennydejohnAnalyst IIIJanuary 20, 2014

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) looks for a receiver in the first half of the Chick-fil-A Bowl NCAA college football game against Duke Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
John Bazemore/Associated Press

ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper has released his latest predictions (subscription required) for the 2014 NFL draft, and boy, are there some surprises.

Kiper leaves several big-name quarterbacks out of the first round—i.e., Derek Carr, Jordan Lynch and A.J. McCarron—and while the cases for the latter two are borderline as first-rounders, there are many around the game who consider Carr a solid first-round pick.

Heck, I even went so far as to predict him at No. 4 to the Cleveland Browns back in the first week of January.

Here's how Kiper's first round breaks down, followed by some review and criticism of a few of the more controversial selections.

Kiper's 1st Round Selections
PickTeamPlayerPositionSchool
1Houston TexansJohnny ManzielQBTexas A&M
2St. Louis Rams (from WAS)Jake MatthewsTTexas A&M
3Jacksonville JaguarsJadeveon ClowneyDESouth Carolina
4Cleveland BrownsBlake BortlesQBUCF
5Oakland RaidersSammy WatkinsWRClemson
6Atlanta FalconsAnthony BarrOLBUCLA
7Tampa Bay BuccaneersKhalil MackOLBBuffalo
8Minnesota VikingsTeddy BridgewaterQBLouisville
9Buffalo BillsGreg RobinsonTAuburn
10Detroit LionsJustin GilbertCBOklahoma State
11Tennessee TitansTaylor LewanTMichigan
12New York GiantsC.J. MosleyLBAlabama
13St. Louis RamsMike EvansWRTexas A&M
14Chicago BearsTimmy JerniganDTFlorida State
15Pittsburgh SteelersLouis Nix IIIDTNotre Dame
16Baltimore RavensEric EbronTENorth Carolina
17Dallas CowboysHa Ha Clinton-DixSAlabama
18New York JetsMarqise LeeWRUSC
19Miami DolphinsCyrus KouandjioTAlabama
20Arizona CardinalsZack MartinTNotre Dame
21Green Bay PackersCalvin PryorSLouisville
22Philadelphia EaglesKelvin BenjaminWRFlorida State
23Kansas City ChiefsStephon TuittDENotre Dame
24Cincinnati BengalsDarqueze DennardCBMichigan State
25San Diego ChargersBradley RobyCBOhio State
26Cleveland Browns (from IND)Carlos HydeRBOhio State
27New Orleans SaintsAntonio RichardsonTTennessee
28Carolina PanthersBrandin CooksWROregon State
29New England PatriotsJace AmaroTETexas Tech
30San Francisco 49ersOdell Beckham Jr.WRLSU
31Denver BroncosScott CrichtonDEOregon State
32Seattle SeahawksAllen RobinsonWRPenn State
ESPN.com

 

No. 1: Houston Texans, Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies argues a call during the the Chick-fil-A Bowl game against the Duke Blue Devils at the Georgia Dome on December 31, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

This pick is a head-scratcher for me.

Johnny Manziel was arguably the most dynamic player in college football each of the past two seasons, but banking on him to produce the same way in the NFL is a little risky. I don't love Manziel's size, and his decision-making is still questionable at times.

Plus, we saw this season how another mobile quarterback, Robert Griffin III, faired after defenses were given a season to adjust to his playing style.

It's not that I don't like Manziel. I think he has the chance to be a decent NFL quarterback. That being said, I think the Texans would be better suited to go after Teddy Bridgewater at No. 1. Bridgewater is more NFL-ready at this point and has the ability to step in and be "the guy" from Day 1.

Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reports that the Cleveland Browns might be willing to trade up to select Manziel, and that would be the only situation where I could see him taken within the top three selections.

 

No. 3: Jacksonville Jaguars, Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01:  Jadeveon Clowney #7 of the South Carolina Gamecocks in action during their game against the Wisconsin Badgers at the Capital One Bowl on January 1, 2014 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Jadeveon Clowney will be a stud in the NFL. I have no doubts about that.

I question Kiper's belief that the Jacksonville Jaguars will select him at No. 3, though. Among several other things, the Jaguars are still in need of a legitimate quarterback. They can't rely on Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert any longer.

This draft class gives them a legitimate opportunity to select a quarterback for their future with the No. 3 overall pick. That guy could be Blake Bortles, Derek Carr or Manziel, but Bortles makes the most sense for this offense.

He has an NFL-ready arm, and his big frame allows him to see over the top of defenses. He led UCF to its first BCS bowl game in team history this season, and staying in Florida to play with the Jaguars would be a good move for the young signal-caller.

For a team like the Jaguars, selecting Clowney wouldn't make the immediate impact that drafting Bortles would. Clowney is an ideal fit on a team with a strong (or potentially strong) defense. Bortles can impact the entire offense, and that's what Jacksonville needs.

 

No. 16: Baltimore Ravens, Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 28:  Eric Ebron #85 of the North Carolina Tar Heels makes a catch against Solomon Tentman #33 of the Cincinnati Bearcats during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 28, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by St
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens will watch Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson hit free agency this offseason, but they would be wise to re-sign one of the two. Joe Flacco has had success in recent years passing to both of them, so bringing one back would be ideal.

While having Eric Ebron play behind one of the two wouldn't be a bad idea, the Ravens need to address another aspect of the offense instead. Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown are decent wide receivers, but Flacco still doesn't have that go-to option when throwing the ball downfield.

The Ravens have a chance to fix that with the No. 16 pick.

Wideout Marqise Lee has speed to burn as well as the hands to make difficult catches in traffic. He's coming off a three-year career at USC that saw him haul in 29 touchdowns and over 3,500 yards. Most of that production came in the vertical passing game, and we all know how much Flacco loves to air it out over defenses.

Putting a speed guy like Lee in the post would help with Flacco's efficiency in this regard.

 

No. 21: Green Bay Packers, Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 18:  Calvin Pryor #25 of the Louisville Cardinals intercepts a pass in the end zone during the game against the Central Florida Knights at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 18, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy L
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Jermichael Finley's status moving forward is in question given the spinal fusion surgery he underwent in November, and the Green Bay Packers wouldn't be put at fault for drafting his potential replacement with the No. 21 overall pick.

While safety Calvin Pryor projects to be a quality NFL talent, it would be hard to pass up the pass-catching skills of Jace Amaro. The Texas Tech product was stellar this season, totaling 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns. He was also a big contributor in his team's victory over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl.

Amaro has the size and hands to be a playmaking tight end in the NFL. Kiper suggested that he would be drafted later on by the New England Patriots (No. 29), but they might not be so lucky. If the Packers are wise, they would select him at No. 21.

Of course, Kiper is correct in suggesting that the Patriots should take Amaro. Rob Gronkowski is repeatedly injured, and the Patriots are a breeding ground for talented tight ends. He would be a great fit there.

In terms of need, though, the Packers need Amaro more.