2014 NFL Mock Draft: Projecting Where Top Prospects Will Land in 1st Round

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2014 NFL Mock Draft: Projecting Where Top Prospects Will Land in 1st Round
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Buckle up for one bizarre NFL draft.

Some years take it easy on mock drafters by offering a clear blueprint fir the opening picks. There's usually little question over who goes No. 1, but it's anyone guess how the Houston Texans will start the proceedings this year.

A handful of different prospects have already been tabbed to go first. Without a sure-thing quarterback to grab hold of the tight spot, the order remains up in the air.

But there's plenty of time to kill before all 32 teams gather in New York on May 8, so let's rattle through a practice run anyway.

 

1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

After dropping 14 consecutive games in a free fall from AFC South champions to the league's worst, the Texans need to grab a new quarterback. They could take Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles, but Teddy Bridgewater gets the slight edge after completing 71 percent of his passes with just four interceptions during his junior year.

Showing just how crazy this draft is, NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah said that some teams don't even perceive Bridgewater as a first-round talent:

 

2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

The Rams received this pick by trading their No. 2 pick in 2012 so Washington could snag Robert Griffin III. Don't be surprised if the Rams pull a similar maneuver this year and capitalize on a desperate team searching for a franchise quarterback.

Since they're committed to Sam Bradford for at least one more year and already have two star defensive ends, look for the Rams to grab an offensive difference-maker in Sammy Watkins, who can immediately ignite a stuttering passing attack.

 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

The Jaguars could use a quarterback, but they could also use everything else. After allowing 379.4 total yards per game last season, they should bolster their defense by grabbing Jadeveon Clowney if the opportunity presents itself.

Even though Clowney did not dominate in South Carolina during his final year, he boasts the highest ceiling of any player in the draft. Jacksonville can use a star anywhere it can find one.

 

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

Don't be surprised if Cleveland trades up to the No. 2 pick to grab Manziel. The Browns have another first-rounder at No. 26 and a deep desire to invigorate a frustrated fanbase tired of enduring incompetence. 

CBSSports.com' Jason La Canfora reported that the Browns are willing to move up if necessary to acquire Manziel.

[Adam Gase's] star seems poised to only grow, and the Browns remain very much in transition. However, they do have game-breaking receiver Josh Gordon, they are willing to trade up to land Johnny Manziel in the draft if need be, sources said, and have an owner, Jimmy Haslam, who is committed to spending their abundant cap space to try to win quickly.

It's very possible Cleveland could stay at No. 4 and still get Manziel, but the team did not exhibit much patience when jumping up for Trent Richardson in 2012.

Which quarterback will have the best NFL career?

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5. Oakland Raiders: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

Bridgewater and Manziel garner most of the attention, but Bortles made his case to crack the top tier during his junior campaign. The 6'4" quarterback completed 67.8 percent of his passes, averaging 9.4 yards per attempt.

Look for Oakland to go for the splashy quarterback pick after receiving tumultuous play from Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin.

 

6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

While the Falcons passing game should bounce back with a healthy Julio Jones, they have struggled to run the ball steadily for years. Steven Jackson averaged a career-low 3.5 yards per carry, but seeking out a running back in the first round is foolish.

Matthews will give Atlanta a sturdy, young starter in the trenches to create some running lanes and protect franchise quarterback Matt Ryan.

 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Nobody loves to run more than Greg Schiano, but Lovie Smith is another old-school coach who is unlikely to abandon the ground game. The Buccaneers can reinforce an aging offensive line by adding a superb run-blocker in Auburn's Greg Robinson.

 

8. Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

Although Derek Carr is enticing for a team in need of a quarterback, the Vikings can instead build a fierce linebacker unit by selecting Anthony Barr. At this stage, this is a team with holes everywhere besides running back claiming the best available option.

 

9. Buffalo Bills: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

The Bills led the AFC in sacks last season, but their defense still struggled when it wasn't clobbering the quarterback inside the pocket. Daniel Jeremiah spoke highly of Mack while on The Dan Patrick Show.

"Mack is a stud," Jeremiah said. "He is a big-time guy. He can rush the passer, he can cover, he can do everything."

Although the Bills can rush the pusher, they could sure use a guy who can do everything else.

 

10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

The Lions could load up on offense by pairing Calvin Johnson with Mike Evans, but they should address a secondary that allowed 246.9 passing yards per game last season. Justin Gilbert possesses the size and speed to blanket NFL wide receivers.

 

11. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Titans were frequently exploited on the ground last year, so adding a big man up the middle would be a shrewd choice here. A dependable tackler such as C.J. Mosley, who led Alabama's defense for four years, should help upstart a fizzling unit.

 

12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

The Giants started to rebuild their offensive line by drafting Justin Pugh in the first round last year, but the rest of the unit remains old and battered. Eli Manning unravels under duress in the pocket, so the Giants should add another young talent to their offensive line in Taylor Lewan, who has climbed up the boards after a phenomenal season.

 

13. St. Louis Rams: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

With their second pick of the first round, the Rams will continue to fortify their offense by bringing in Cyrus Kouandjio. He is an outstanding physical specimen who could morph into a Pro-Bowler after some seasoning.

 

14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

Defense is usually a point of pride for the Bears, but they ranked last in the league with 161.4 rushing yards allowed per game on 5.3 yards per carry. Timmy Jernigan, armed with plus power and speed, lunges out of his release to close off running holes. 

 

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Ike Taylor is already 33, and the Steelers could use an upgrade on the other side anyway, so Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard makes sense here. The physical corner would fit perfectly in Pittsburgh's smashmouth style of defense while providing some needed youth.

 

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

The Ravens badly need a wide receiver to complement Torrey Smith, and it's not like you can just trade a sixth-round draft pick for Anquan Boldin. Mike Evans gives Joe Flacco another big target who can make big plays in Baltimore's vertical game.

 

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

Whichever team drafts Ha Ha Clinton-Dix better blare Nelson Muntz's taunting "Ha ha!" after every stop the safety makes. More than just a cool name, Clinton-Dix could help revive one of the league's worst passing defenses.

 

18. New York Jets: Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California

Geno Smith needs some offensive skill players to work with, so expect the Jets to grab a wide receiver or tight end. The likely choice is Marqise Lee, who received a glowing review from ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., via NJ.com's Dom Cosentino:

Lee had a balky knee for a portion of 2013, but he looked close to 100 percent toward the end of the season, and we again saw that trademark explosiveness. Lee is a receiver who competes for the ball, runs good routes and can beat corners and safeties deep, but also has exceptional quickness and fluidity as a runner with the ball. He can change direction with so little noticeable loss of speed, it's a treat to watch.

Smith deserves a fighting chance to play with some decent receivers before the Jets search for another quarterback.

 

19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

After allowing a league-worst 58 sacks last season, the Dolphins ought to hire some protection for Ryan Tannehill. Zack Martin is as durable as they come. He started all 50 games at left tackle during his four years at Notre Dame and said he can't remember ever missing a game during high school, according to 24/7 Sports' Dan Murphy.

 

20. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

If the buzz around Ebron continues to accumulate, he'll be long gone by this point on draft day. Plenty of teams ahead of Arizona could use an upgrade at tight end, and Jeremiah is a huge fan of Ebron's work.

If he can last this long, Ebron would be a tremendous coup for an Arizona squad that is one or two offensive weapons shy of making some significant noise. 

 

21. Green Bay Packers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

At this stage of the first round, a team is forgiven for stockpiling talent by picking the best available player. Louis Nix III could potentially fall off the board at No. 15 to Pittsburgh, so the hefty defensive tackle is a good value here for the Packers.

 

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Other mock drafts have the Eagles flocking to a wide receiver to juxtapose DeSean Jackson, but one of the league's most prolific offenses should instead repair its league-worst secondary in terms of passing yards allowed. Calvin Pryor is a well-balanced, versatile safety who is a good start for Philadelphia's draft.

 

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

The Chiefs, on the other hand, would benefit from adding another wideout. Kelvin Benjamin scored 10 touchdowns during his final 10 games with Florida State, including the game-winning touchdown grab during the BCS Championship Game.

 

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

Uh oh. Carr is still on the table. Should Andy Dalton start panicking? Despite his lackluster playoff performance, Dalton still presented the Bengals with above-average outputs at quarterback, so they should instead invest the pick in Ryan Shazier, a linebacker with incredible speed.

 

25. San Diego Chargers: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

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If the Chargers ever want to compete with the Broncos in the AFC West, they'll need to bulk up their secondary. Ohio State's Bradley Roby is a playmaker at corner with considerable upside.

 

26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts): Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State

Assuming they haven't traded this pick, the Browns now have a quarterback and hopefully are not foolish enough to take a running back with the pick they obtained from jettisoning their failed first-round running back. That means they might as well go best available with defensive end Scott Crichton.

 

27. New Orleans Saints: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

The Saints defense made major strides under Rob Ryan, but there's still work to be done. Adding an explosive defensive end in Kony Ealy could improve the run defense while providing the Saints with another competent pass-rusher.

Which of these wide receivers should be selected first?

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28. Carolina Panthers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State

The Panthers have a glaring hole at wide receiver that should be addressed here. Steve Smith is aging, and Cam Newton doesn't have a viable target on the other side. Brandin Cooks and Odell Beckham Jr. are also options, but Robinson gets the nod after hauling in 97 receptions for Penn State during his junior year.

 

29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

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New England's offense operated at its best when employing two tight ends who tormented the opposing defenses. So even if the Patriots trust Rob Gronkowski to return as good as new, they have room for another dynamic matchup nightmare in Jace Amaro, a 6'6", 260-pound tight end with exceptional receiving skills.

 

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

What about the team that has no major needs to address? It could look for another wide receiver, but another cornerback such as Jason Verrett wouldn't hurt either.

 

31. Denver Broncos: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

It's safe to say the Broncos are good at the offensive skill positions, so let's transition to the defensive side. Shaun Phillips has been a revelation for Denver, but he has plenty of mileage on him and could parlay the Super Bowl run into a big contract elsewhere.

 

32. Seattle Seahawks: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

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Another dynamic wide receiver could make Seattle virtually unbeatable. They may already have that guy waiting in Percy Harvin, but it's worth gambling on a prospect such as Cooks if he's waiting at the end of Round 1.

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