NFL Mock Draft 2014: Predicting Where Top Prospects Will Land

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 29, 2014

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) passes in the first half of an NCAA college football game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Going into the 2013 college football season, South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney was the consensus No. 1 overall pick for the 2014 NFL draft to nearly everyone. But that has changed now, with the top pick wide open between a few quarterbacks, Clowney and others.   

There's no telling what will go down between the top teams on the draft board between now and then, but the Houston Texans look like they are indeed open to trading the pick, according to's Chase Goodbread. With a number of teams looking for a franchise quarterback and plenty of guys available, we're sure to see a big move or two made in the first round. 

But until then, we have the current draft board to pick from, and plenty of teams are in great position to address needs that will help them win now and in the future. 

Let's break down the entire first round and highlight how the top prospects in the class relate to their potential destinations. 


1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgwater, QB, Louisville

John Raoux/Associated Press

The Texans will entertain the prospect of trading their top overall pick, but in the end they'll realize one thing—this class is loaded with quarterbacks, and they need a franchise quarterback.

Teddy Bridgewater is the best overall quarterback prospect. While Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles, among others, will all be picked early, the Louisville product boasts the overall package, as former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke explained to's Dan Greenspan:

He's the total package. He has the ability to do all the things they're gonna do at the next level. In terms of arm strength, he's got NFL arm strength. He can throw the ball accurately on the run. He has great escapability within the pocket.

These skills will not only make him an effective first-year QB but also suggest he will develop well as a professional quarterback.

There's been a lot of chatter about Bridgewater being overrated since the latter part of the season, but as B/R draft guru Matt Miller noted, the lasting opinion shouldn't change based on a few trendy picks:

The Texans have the horses to win now; they just need an NFL ready quarterback to lead them, and Bridgewater is the closest thing.


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

The Rams and their fans may want Clowney, but they need Sammy Watkins with their second overall pick if they decide not to trade down—or even if they trade down and think they can nab Watkins later.

The Clemson speedster would address a pressing area of need for St. Louis, which needs wide receiver help immensely. Tight end Jared Cook led the team in receiving with 671 yards, and only one wide receiver—Chris Givens—eclipsed the 500-yard mark in 2013. 

If Watkins' Twitter hint on his 40-yard-dash time is any indication, teams may not be able to turn him down after all:

Having Watkins alongside Tavon Austin would give the Rams a dynamic one-two punch at wide receiver, and that is something they will need for Sam Bradford if the Rams are going to be a legitimate threat in the cut-throat conference. 


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


The most talented overall prospect in the class can't fall for long. Jadeveon Clowney will end up coming off the board at No. 3, to the lucky Jaguars. 

South Carolina's menacing defensive end didn't put up the numbers many expected in 2013 after a monster season in 2012, but it was only enough to fall from the obvious top pick to a sure top-five candidate. 

Losing some support may have lit a fire under Clowney, who vowed to have a huge showing at the NFL Scouting Combine, per's Dan Greenspan:

Jacksonville will be fortunate for his services, as the Jags ranked a lowly 29th in the league in rush defense in 2013. Adding Clowney will also help a pass rush that only forced 31 sacks in 2013—tied for last in the NFL. 


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

If the draft works out as it's laid out here, the Browns will be in a dream situation. They'll grab some much-needed attention by drafting one of the most attention-grabbing players to ever come out of the college ranks.

Johnny Manziel accomplished stardom and college successes in his first season, enough to garner a Heisman Trophy, but he polished up his pro resume in his second and final year. Painted as a scrambler who couldn't be a traditional drop-back passer, Manziel torched the SEC's best defenses in the pocket and made all the throws in the book through various obstacles, from injury to adverse environments.

Manziel's small stature can be knocked, but you can't knock his leadership and will. Cleveland will scoop up the Texas A&M star if at all possible, give him the keys to the offense and start the Mike Pettine era off with a huge bang. 


5. Oakland Raiders: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

There comes a point amid all of these quarterback-hungry clubs that the decreasing level of product available isn't worth missing another top player. This is Oakland's struggle at pick No. 5.

The Raiders need a QB more than anything but might not want to reach for a Blake Bortles considering they can get a potentially franchise impacting defensive player in Anthony Barr. Barr will be one of the NFL's best athletes upon entering the league and should quickly become a top defensive player. 


6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack rivals Barr as the top defensive player in the draft, and they won't go off the board far from each other at all in the first round.

The Falcons have tons of money and young potential tied up in their offense, but the defense—specifically run defense—needs a lift. Mack might be the most reliable run-stuffer and pass-rusher in the class and looks like a great for for Atlanta.


7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Dec 31, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Texas A&M Aggies offensive linesman Jake Matthews (75) on the bench against the Duke Blue Devils during the first quarter in the 2013 Chick-fil-a Bowl at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay is going to be targeting both Mack and Barr very closely as it will enter the draft wanting defensive talent, but with those two off the board here, the Bucs will be happy to see Matthews fall to them.

Matthews has been an anchor on the outside of the tackle box for the Aggies over the last few years and one of the nation's best linemen. With Donald Penn aging on the line and due a big contract, perhaps the Bucs could make a move for their future and lock up Matthews. 


8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

The Vikings have spent endless stock on finding their quarterback of the future, and all signs are pointing to them doing the same with this year's eighth overall pick and the plethora of top QBs available.

Bortles has the size—6'4" and 230 pounds—to come in and immediately be a presence in the pocket. He looks like he will have the ability to elongate plays and be a creative, improvisational passer—something that is an important trait for quarterbacks in today's NFL.


9. Buffalo Bills: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

The Bills will be looking to address a number of concerns with their No. 9 pick, but they won't argue with getting a franchise tackle in Greg Robinson.

The Auburn standout put on a clinic in the national title loss to Florida State and looks the part of a lockdown tackle. The Bills need a right tackle to bookend Cordy Glenn on the left side, so Robinson could start right away and help protect quarterback EJ Manuel.


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

The Lions' defense has been so bad that there is practically nowhere to go but up after a dismal 2013, in which Detroit's secondary ranked 23rd in pass defense. But a local product who happens to be the best cornerback in the draft class would be a solid addition to help that.

Darqueze Dennard won the Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back and was a key defender for the Spartans' Rose Bowl run. The Lions need a lot of work on defense. Dennard is just the start, but a good start. 


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

Nov 16, 2013; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs running back LaDarius Perkins (27) advances the ball and stiff arms Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley (32) during the game at Davis Wade Stadium. Alabama Crimson Tide defeat the Missi
Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

C.J. Mosley is this year's version of the Alabama linebacker. Every draft class has one. It's that prototypical on-field leader that has elite size and immediately translates into the NFL.

The Titans defense made strides in 2013 but needs help to continue progressing. Adding Mosley to a unit that includes Zach Brown will make for a solid Tennessee defense.


12. New York Giants: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

The Giants need help on both lines, but with the top tackle options off the board, they will take a stud defensive tackle in Louis Nix III.

The Notre Dame standout has stood up to the task against some of the nation's biggest and best offensive lines, and he has the ideal frame to continue developing. New York needs some big guys down low to compete in the tough NFC East.


13. St. Louis Rams: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

With two picks in the first 13, St. Louis will be ecstatic to lock down one of their offensive-line positions for the next 10-plus years by drafting Taylor Lewan.

At 6'8" and 315 pounds, Lewan not only has the physical attributes but also all the intangibles to be a star at the position. The Rams offense ranked just 19th in the run last year, so this is a logical fit.


14. Chicago Bears: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

There are a lot of cornerbacks and safeties in the mix for best defensive back, but Clinton-Dix is right near the top and may end up panning out as the one with the most successful pro career.

At 6'1" and 208 pounds, Clinton-Dix is a menace for wide receivers and can make plays in the air as well as stuff the run. A versatile player like him will do wonders for a Bears defense that likes to play tough-nosed football.


15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

Nov 23, 2013; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (8) during a play in the first half against the Idaho Vandals at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State's defense was full of stars in 2013, but none was more noticeable—in size and in talent level—than big Timmy Jernigan.

The 6'2", 292-pound tackle takes up more space than his large frame indicates, swallowing up the line in run plays and getting after the quarterback in passing situations. The Steelers defense has lacked big plays in rushing the passer and could use a tackle with the motor of Jernigan.


16. Baltimore Ravens: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Another Florida State product comes off the board to the Ravens, this one to a team that desperately needs his services.

Baltimore struggled mightily to replace Anquan Boldin in the passing game in 2013, with Torrey Smith acting as a one-man show. Smith and Jacoby Jones are the only true playmakers on the offense right now.

Getting Benjamin—a wideout with NFL size, speed and athleticism—in the fold would be a major boost to Joe Flacco's struggling offense.


17. Dallas Cowboys: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

The Cowboys have plenty of problems, but none is more pressing than their inability to get after the quarterback. Dallas only amassed 34 team sacks in 2013, only three off the league low.

Ealy proved his worth as a premier pass-rusher in the SEC and one of the nation's best, and his game translates perfectly to the NFL. His athleticism is off the charts, and his ability to impact either the pass rush or run defense is worth picking him up at 17.


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

Dec 21, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Southern California Trojans receiver Marqise Lee (9) is pursued by Fresno State Bulldogs safety Derron Smith (13) on a 40-yard reception in the fourth quarter in the Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium. USC defeated Fresno
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets have passed up on the top receiver more than once in the last few drafts. This is a player they just can't pass up on.

Marqise Lee may have gone higher in last year's draft had he come out, and could very well be off the board by the time Rex Ryan and company get on the clock. But if he's there at No. 18, Lee could answer the huge hole at receiver and be the primary playmaker for the New York Jets.


19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

The Dolphins have some gaping holes on the offensive line and need immediate answers. A tackle from Alabama would conceivably answer one of those holes. 

Kouandjio is 6'6" and 310 pounds, and is quick on his feet to adapt to the fastest of pass-rushers. He's pretty much a sure thing to be a Pro Bowl starter at tackle for a lucky quarterback for the distant future, and Ryan Tannehill is that guy in this situation.


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

The Cardinals have talent at receiver and running back, but could use a tight end to be a big-time target for Carson Palmer in the twilight of his career. 

Ebron is still developing his body to be able to be a worthy NFL tight end, but he possesses everything teams want from a future star at the position. He'll be a clutch target in the middle of the field that can separate from defenders and create mismatches for the defense. 


21. Green Bay Packers: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

Ra'Shede Hageman would be a run-stuffing tackle for Green Bay, and the Packers would be happy to have him. 

The Packers are at their best when tackles like B.J. Raji are imploding the opponent's offensive line from the interior, and that will continue to be the case if they allow Hageman to develop the way he needs.


22. Philadelphia Eagles: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

The Eagles badly need help in the secondary. They ranked dead last in pass defense during the 2013 season.

Pryor isn't the best safety in the class, but he's awfully close. He's one of the hardest hitters in college football, and his mentality will spill over onto his teammates to help change the culture and attitude on Philly's defense.


23. Kansas City Chiefs: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State

Nov 16, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Allen Robinson (8) makes a one handed catch prior to the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Beaver Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Despite making it to the playoffs and going 11-5 on the season, Kansas City was incredibly thin at receiver. In fact, the team's leader in receiving yards was running back Jamaal Charles. If it weren't for Dwayne Bowe's re-emergence, the Chiefs would have been out of luck completely at wideout.

Robinson is one of the top wideouts in the class and has the frame to grow into a pro-style pass-catcher. He has all the intangibles to succeed, which is likely why he skipped his senior season to make himself eligible for the draft. 


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

Cincinnati already boasts one of the NFL's best defenses, but it won't mind adding a local product who can develop into a perennial starter on the outside.

Shazier emerged as one of the best pass-rushers in the nation at Ohio State, and his time as a Buckeye has prepared him against some of the nation's best offensive lines. He'll bring that into the Bengals locker room and make an immediate impact defensively.


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

The Chargers had an unexpected run to the playoffs in 2013 and made it as far as the divisional round, but it wasn't thanks to their pass defense that ranked 29th in the NFL.

Gilbert would be a huge help in getting rid of those problems, as he could come in and immediately start in order to begin a wave of new talent in San Diego's struggling defense. 


26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis): Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU

The Browns already have a potent defense that boasts plenty of playmakers, and new head coach Mike Pettine figures to get the most out of that side of the ball. But adding a player of Van Noy's potential would allow Cleveland to guarantee more defensive success.

Van Noy is a chiseled veteran and will bring in plenty of experience. As an instinctive player, he should be able to play right away and rack up tackles for Cleveland.


27. New Orleans Saints: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

After a terrible showing in 2012, the Saints emerged as one of the NFL's surprises on the defensive side of the ball. They could still use some young guns in the secondary, however, and they will address that with the selection of Jason Verrett.

The TCU cornerback is as fast as anyone he'll cover and has great ball skills, making him an interception threat on any down. That will fit right in with New Orleans' aggressive style. 


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

Nov 23, 2013; Corvallis, OR, USA; Oregon State Beavers wide receiver Brandin Cooks (7) scores a touchdown against the Washington Huskies in the second half at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers are all set on defense and have plenty on offense, but they could use an open-field threat not named Steve Smith. Cooks fits the bill.

One of the fastest players in college football, Cooks will be utilized on kickoff and punt returns but can also light up a secondary with his blazing speed and route-running skills. Though Cooks is similar in size to Steve, Cam Newton will welcome his presence with plenty of big plays. 


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

New England will be awfully inclined to take a receiver at the top of the draft, and if their man isn't on the board expect them to go with the next best thing by drafting a tight end.

Jace Amaro is one of the top tight ends in the class and possesses the frame to be a big-time target for Tom Brady. Rob Gronkowski has struggled with injuries, so the Pats could use a young weapon in the middle of the field. 


30. San Francisco 49ers: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida

The 49ers have Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, but the latter is entering free agency and the team could be forced to draft a future—or immediate—starter with its 30th pick.

If that's the case, expect Roberson to be one of the guys San Francisco considers. The Florida product uses his above-average size and arm length to disrupt receivers and make plays in the air. 


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

Oct 19, 2013; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive end Stephon Tuitt (7) celebrates after sacking USC Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler (6) in the third quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 14-10. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos' defense has gone from awful to decent to solid up front, but the fact remains that Denver needs depth along the front seven. 

Stephon Tuitt would be a good addition. The Notre Dame tackle has experience playing against top competition and has the size to make a lot of noise in the trenches.


32. Seattle Seahawks: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA

The Seahawks are mostly set with their current roster. Still, it never hurts to add help in depth on the offensive line, and they will address that with this late first-round pick of Xavier Su'a-Filo.

The 6'3", 304-pound Su'a-Filo will be able to grow in Seattle's system before developing into a potential starter on the line. He'll aid the cause of continuing to open up holes for Marshawn Lynch.


Note: Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference


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