2014 NFL Mock Draft: Breaking Down Most Likely First-Round Selections

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 25, 2014

Clemson  wide receiver Sammy Watkins (2)runs during the second half of the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game against Ohio State, Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

The long stretch of time between college football and the NFL draft has begun, and it's never too early to begin dissecting where the top stars will land in the league. 

There is still endless work to be done for these players, as the NFL combine is just around the corner. But with many prospects competing in games such as the Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game, we're able to get more eyes on some of the draft's most coveted players.

Let's take a look at where each falls in the first round with a prediction of the first 32 picks. 

1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgwater, QB, Louisville

John Raoux/Associated Press

Other quarterbacks have emerged, but Teddy Bridgewater is still the best bet to be a franchise quarterback, and the Texans are sorely in need of one.

The 6'3", 196-pound quarterback still has a little bit of filling out to do physically, but he has all of the skills you would expect from a star quarterback—he's confident in the pocket, can place the ball in tight spots and he makes plays with both his arm and legs.

Other available studs and teams open to trading for the top pick will be enticing for Houston, but nothing will compare to locking down its new franchise quarterback.


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

The Rams were in position with the second pick two years ago, and they opted to turn it into a major trade instead of addressing any of their big needs that offseason. This year, they would be foolish to do the same.

St. Louis may be able to get another big deal reminiscent of the one that landed the Washington Redskins Robert Griffin III, but it would be better off nabbing the draft's best weapon in Sammy Watkins. The Clemson product will be the fastest player in the class and will fill a huge receiver void for the Rams. 

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

South Carolina star Jadeveon Clowney may want to the be the No. 1 overall pick, per The State's Josh Kendall, but he'll fall right into the lap of a team that desperately needs a player like him.

The Jaguars were a terrible 29th against the run in 2013, and No. 26 against the pass wasn't much better. Clowney would help both, as he's a terrorizer of quarterbacks and can stuff up running lanes on any given play. 


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

John Bazemore/Associated Press

The Browns need a quarterback so bad that it wouldn't be surprising to see them trade up if their man is about to be taken. But at No. 4 and with the way this mock shapes up, Cleveland will be happy to stay put.

Johnny Manziel became arguably the most talked-about college football player in history in just two years, all while boasting the skill set of an epic talent at quarterback. His ability to make plays anywhere on the field and lead a team to victory will resonate for the Browns, who are hungrier for success than any team in the NFL. 


5. Oakland Raiders: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

Oakland wouldn't mind taking a quarterback at No. 5 if the right opportunity presented itself, but with the top two guys in this year's class off the board, picking up the draft's best defensive player will be welcomed.

Barr is a quarterback's nightmare with speed to get around the edge and leave linemen in the dust. His immense size—6,4", 247 pounds—makes him unstoppable in run-stopping situations, and he is fast enough to cover tight ends and receivers across the middle. 

The Raiders have lost much of their hard-hitting identity on defense, and Barr—a local star out of UCLA—will help to bring that reputation back to Oakland.

6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Mack comes up just behind Barr in the list of top defensive players in the 2014 class, and he'll be rewarded with a high selection by a team that could use some help defensively.

The Falcons finished 2013 ranked second-to-last in run defense and could really use a linebacker to make some plays on the outside and also fill run lanes. Despite playing against inferior competition in college, Mack has proven able to play at a NFL level and will immediately be an impact player in Atlanta. 

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

The Bucs could use help at a number of positions, but bringing in one of the best tackles to come out of college in the last few years won't be frowned upon in Tampa Bay.

Jake Matthews could have been a top-five pick last year had he come out, and he could very well go in the top few picks this year if things change shape a bit between now and May. But with a number of skill-position players expected to go ahead of him, Matthews will fall to a Bucs team that is looking for more bodies to protect new franchise quarterback Mike Glennon.

8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Bortles saw his personal stock skyrocket after a huge year at UCF in 2013, and he'll nestle into a position with the Minnesota Vikings where he can be a serious contender to start right away.

With Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder in the mix, Minnesota already knows what it has at the quarterback position and could opt to turn a newcomer loose to see what he is capable of. Expect Bortles—or whoever lands in Minnesota—to get the keys to the offense until he proves incapable of doing so. 

9. Buffalo Bills: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

It's tough to pick out exactly where Auburn tackle Greg Robinson fits in with the other elite offensive linemen in this year's class. But if the national title game against Florida State is any indication, he belongs right up at the top.

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah said Robinson was "the most dominating player on the Rose Bowl field," as he opened up running lanes for Auburn's potent offense and protecting Nick Marshall in the rare passing situation.

Coming off a stock boost, Robinson will fall in the top 10 picks and should immediately develop into a starter in the trenches for the Bills. 

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

Simply put, the Lions were atrocious against the pass in 2013 and need immediate help.

Coming off a 2013 season in which Detroit ranked 23rd by conceding 247 passing yards per game, the Lions will answer a huge need by drafting Dennard at cornerback. The Michigan State product won't have to move far and is coming off a season that won him the Thorpe Award for the nation's top defensive back. 

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

The Titans defense made a lot of strides in 2013, but it still needs help against the run, where the unit ranks 20th in the league after giving up 112.2 yards per game on the ground.

C.J. Mosley is your typical Alabama linebacker who can captain the middle of the field and make plays in both rushing and passing situations. Tennessee has a solid defensive core that would be brought to the next level with the addition of Mosley.

The Titans drafted an Alabama player last year with their first pick, and No. 10 overall pick Chance Warmack turned into an impact player in his rookie season. Expect them to go the same route here.  

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

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Louis Nix III is a massive, 6'2.5", 342-pound tackle who eats up the line of scrimmage and opens up more room for his fellow rushers to make plays. The Giants could use all of that right now.

New York needs help up front on both sides of the ball, and it could easily go with one of many top offensive linemen with this pick. But considering the draft's best defensive tackle is still available, the G-men won't pass him up. 

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

The Rams have a huge opportunity to bolster one side of the football with two picks in the first 13 of this draft, and they will use everything they can to pick up the offense that ranked well below the league average in 2013.  

After adding an explosive playmaker with their second pick, Jeff Fisher and Co. will keep it simple at No. 13 by adding a lockdown tackle who will protect Sam Bradford for many years to come. If Bradford is the answer at quarterback for the Rams, they need to keep him protected, and this is a huge investment in doing so. 

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

Just like the Raiders, the Bears have lost much of their defensive identity in recent years. Chicago has hung its hat on strong defense in the last few years, but the Bears ranked dead last in rushing defense in 2013 and weren't much better through the air.

Clinton-Dix would aid an aging secondary that is running out of playmakers. The Alabama product is the best ball-hawking player in this draft and has peak skills to not only shut down the vertical threat, but also stuff up the run with his physical tackling abilities.  

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

The Steelers have plenty of problems to address, and with the top three offensive linemen off the board, they will stay in the trenches and pick up their defensive anchor for many years to come. 

Timmy Jernigan is a dominating presence in the trenches, and he helped lead Florida State to a national championship. He will bring in an unrivaled work ethic, and his high motor will allow for him to make plenty of huge plays early on in his pro career. 

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

Doug Benc/Associated Press

Fresh off a heroic performance in the BCS National Championship Game after catching the game-winning pass, Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin has showcased his NFL resume and will immediately translate into a big wideout.

The Ravens will be ecstatic to start using the services of Benjamin, a 6'5", 234-pound monster who will already be among the biggest pass-catching targets in the NFL. Other than Torrey Smith, Baltimore is largely out of options at receiver and could use Benjamin's immediate impact. 

17. Dallas Cowboys: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

The Cowboys are in dire need of help on the defensive line, and Kony Ealy could be a huge start to fixing the Dallas front seven.

The Missouri product quickly became one of the most feared pass-rushers in the SEC with a monster 2013, and the Cowboys struggled to get to the quarterback last season. If the Cowboys are going to have a feared defense again, they need a pass rush and Ealy would be a solid start. 

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

New York just can't pass up on a wide receiver again in the first round of the draft, and at No. 18, the Jets could be in prime position to land the draft's second-best gem at receiver.  

Marqise Lee would be a top-five prospect in some classes, and the Jets will be lucky to lock up a star receiver for Geno Smith to throw to early and often in 2014. 

19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

The Dolphins need at least one long-term solution on the offensive line to come out of this draft, and they could nab a stud at No. 19 if Alabama's best lineman in the draft is available. 

Kouandjio could be Ryan Tannehill's main protector on the Miami offensive line for the next 10-plus years if both parties stay healthy. 

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

Dec 28, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels tight end Eric Ebron (85) gets tackled by Cincinnati Bearcats defensive back Howard Wilder (3) during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Spor
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals are pretty set on defense but could bolster their offense with another weapon for Carson Palmer. Eric Ebron fits the bill.

The North Carolina standout would be an immediate pass-catcher. While Rob Housler had a productive season with nearly 500 yards, Ebron would give this team more options and could really open the middle of the field up.

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

Green Bay made it to the playoffs in 2013 but undoubtedly needs lots of help up front on defense. The Packers were well below average versus both the run and the pass, and a lot of that has to do with ineffectiveness in the trenches.

Hageman looks to be one of the top linemen in the entire class and has been stuffing up the Big Ten's best offensive lines in his college career. He's ready to come in and make an immediate impact for a Packers defense that sorely needs it. 

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

Anything other than a pick for the secondary from Philadelphia would be a surprise, as the Eagles were worst in the NFL against the pass in 2013.  

At 6'2" and 208 pounds, Calvin Pryor is quite large for a safety and will bring his hard-hitting mentality to an Eagles secondary that lacks big hitters. If Philly is going to compete in the NFC East, it will need defensive backs who can attack the ball, and Pryor is just that. 

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

Alex Smith was a major game manager in 2013, but that had more to do with his lack of receivers than his own ability. Other than Dwayne Bowe, Smith had no one to throw to.

Adding Robinson in the first round would help to answer that issue, and if the Penn State product pans out like his potential indicates, he will become a featured part of Kansas City's offense. 

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

The Bengals already boast a strong defense, but adding Ryan Shazier would put Cincinnati over the top and add young depth to a strong front seven.

Coming out of Ohio State, Shazier wouldn't have to travel far to fit in with Cincy, and his ability to get to the passer would work well alongside budding star Vontaze Burfict. 

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

Jan 3, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys cornerback Justin Gilbert (4) reacts during the game against the Missouri Tigers in the 2014 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Missouri won 41-31. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego surprised the league by making it to the playoffs, but the secondary was one part of the team that lived up to the preseason expectation of being horrible.

Justin Gilbert would be an immediate impact and could challenge for a starting position right away. The Oklahoma State cornerback excels in making big plays. While he may not be the best lockdown corner in the game, he's the best bet to make the game-winning play (see: Richard Sherman).  

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

Having already answered their biggest need of a franchise quarterback, the Browns will be excited to add an impact linebacker to their already talented defense. 

Cleveland bringing in Kyle Van Noy will allow the defense to add a talented pass-rusher who makes plays all over the field and brings a high level of energy to the team. 

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

The Saints saw a huge resurgence in 2013, and much of that was due to their vast improvement in defending the pass. But some young talent is still needed.

Jason Verrett would be allowed to develop slowly into an every-down cornerback by starting off on the bench and working his way up. The TCU cornerback has enjoyed a long career of making big plays and will bring that to the next level.  

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

Oct 26, 2013; Corvallis, OR, USA; Oregon State Beavers wide receiver Brandin Cooks (7) scores a touchdown against the Stanford Cardinal during the 2nd half at Reser Stadium. Stanford defeated Oregon State 20-12. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sp
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers had a big year in 2013, but they undeniably still need help at receiver with Steve Smith assuming too much of the daily duties.

Cooks could come in and immediately give Carolina a big-play threat in punt and kickoff duties. Once he's ready to work his way into a lot of snaps at receiver, he could really explode as an option all over the field. The sky is the limit for this Oregon State stud.

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

It's not a secret that New England needs healthy and able tight ends—or pass-catchers in general, really. And it would be hard for the Pats to deviate from addressing that in the first round.

Picking up Jace Amaro would alleviate the pain of playing without Rob Gronkowski early on as he recovers from a devastating knee injury. Tom Brady needs talented players to throw the ball to, and Amaro would fit right in. 


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

The 49ers have had one of the NFL's scariest defenses from top to bottom in recent years, but they could lose starting cornerback Tarell Brown this offseason due to free agency. 

Roberson would be a solid addition to potentially start alongside Carlos Rogers on the outside. The Florida product frustrates receivers with his length and has good strength for the position to transition well into the NFL. 

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

The Broncos have improved on defense throughout the season, but there's no doubt that they could use some help on the line, and Tuitt would be an immediate help.

The Notre Dame standout has torn up some of the nation's top offensive linemen and figures to translate perfectly to the next level. His hard-nosed style of play works well along with his massive frame, and he can use that to torment linemen and quarterbacks. 


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

The Seahawks don't need too much help on either side of the football, but if they could add some depth on the offensive line, that would be a huge win for Pete Carroll and Co. 

Xavier Su'a-Filo has been a pro-style player in the college ranks for the last few seasons at UCLA and will be able to develop into a potential starter up front for Seattle when the time comes. 

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


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