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

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Mel Kiper 2014 NFL Mock Draft: Reviewing ESPN Guru's Latest Predictions
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
Pick Team Player Position School
1 Houston Texans Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M
2 St. Louis Rams (from WAS) Jake Matthews T Texas A&M
3 Jacksonville Jaguars Jadeveon Clowney DE South Carolina
4 Cleveland Browns Blake Bortles QB UCF
5 Oakland Raiders Sammy Watkins WR Clemson
6 Atlanta Falcons Anthony Barr OLB UCLA
7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Khalil Mack OLB Buffalo
8 Minnesota Vikings Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville
9 Buffalo Bills Greg Robinson T Auburn
10 Detroit Lions Justin Gilbert CB Oklahoma State
11 Tennessee Titans Taylor Lewan T Michigan
12 New York Giants C.J. Mosley LB Alabama
13 St. Louis Rams Mike Evans WR Texas A&M
14 Chicago Bears Timmy Jernigan DT Florida State
15 Pittsburgh Steelers Louis Nix III DT Notre Dame
16 Baltimore Ravens Eric Ebron TE North Carolina
17 Dallas Cowboys Ha Ha Clinton-Dix S Alabama
18 New York Jets Marqise Lee WR USC
19 Miami Dolphins Cyrus Kouandjio T Alabama
20 Arizona Cardinals Zack Martin T Notre Dame
21 Green Bay Packers Calvin Pryor S Louisville
22 Philadelphia Eagles Kelvin Benjamin WR Florida State
23 Kansas City Chiefs Stephon Tuitt DE Notre Dame
24 Cincinnati Bengals Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan State
25 San Diego Chargers Bradley Roby CB Ohio State
26 Cleveland Browns (from IND) Carlos Hyde RB Ohio State
27 New Orleans Saints Antonio Richardson T Tennessee
28 Carolina Panthers Brandin Cooks WR Oregon State
29 New England Patriots Jace Amaro TE Texas Tech
30 San Francisco 49ers Odell Beckham Jr. WR LSU
31 Denver Broncos Scott Crichton DE Oregon State
32 Seattle Seahawks Allen Robinson WR Penn State

ESPN.com

 

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

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

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

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

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.

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