2014 NFL Mock Draft: Post-Super Bowl
The Super Bowl is complete. After a dismantling performance by Seattle to destroy the top-ranked Broncos offense, the last football game of the 2013 season is in the books.
Now, it's draft season.
In the first mock draft of the year with the official draft order set, we see two top-10 quarterbacks not named Johnny Manziel, tight end value shoot up and the rich getting richer in the late first round in this deep 2014 draft class.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Texans have the opportunity to take a handful of remarkably talented players with the first overall pick. The problem is that neither Teddy Bridgewater nor Johnny Manziel are ideal fits for Bill O’Brien’s offense, and Jadeveon Clowney doesn’t fit a glaring need and has legitimate bust potential.
That all being said, I don’t think the Texans squeeze a quarterback into their new head coach’s system that isn’t a perfect fit, and they shouldn’t pass on the opportunity to play Clowney opposite J.J. Watt.
2. St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Based on the quarterback talent that will be here on Draft Day and the Rams' desire to trade down, I don’t expect them to stay at this spot long. If they do stay here, taking the best non-quarterback is the smartest decision, and Robinson fits that description.
While Jake Long is solid on the left side and Joseph Barksdale was adequate at right tackle, the Rams shouldn’t pass on the opportunity to keep the oft-injured Sam Bradford as protected as possible.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Jaguars would love to leave the 2014 draft with Teddy Bridgewater. He’s the best and most pro-ready quarterback in this class. He fits what they want in a quarterback, as he’s a consistent, efficient passer. He would also allow the Jags to take the best player available throughout the rest of the draft instead of worrying about finding their quarterback elsewhere.
If they can’t land Bridgewater, they’ll likely choose between Anthony Barr or Khalil Mack, and I’d lean toward Barr simply because he’s the type of moldable prospect Gus Bradley may prefer to work with.
4. Cleveland Browns: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Is the Browns' interest in Johnny Manziel legitimate?
At this point, I’ll bet that they won’t pull the trigger on him, at least at No. 4 overall.
Instead, grabbing Sammy Watkins to pair with Josh Gordon will allow whoever is their quarterback of the future to succeed. Watkins is a dynamic short-area receiver who’s able to consistently make defenders miss in the open field.
5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
The Raiders are looking for instant starters. They need someone who can step in immediately to their roster and contribute to a team that’s in win-or-get-fired mode across the organization.
With that in mind, outside of quarterback and receiver (with Watkins off the board here), they’ll likely be targeting an impact defender at No. 5 overall.
Mack may hail from the MAC school Buffalo, but he has big-time talent, remarkable quickness and explosiveness as a pass-rusher. He has the upside to develop as a 10-plus-sack guy per year in the NFL.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Ideally, the Falcons would find a way to land Jadeveon Clowney with their first-round pick. If the Texans don’t take Clowney first overall, a trade with the Rams to secure the high-ceiling pass-rusher seems very likely.
If they aren’t able to land Clowney, I think grabbing the best offensive lineman available is their backup plan, and they’ll be in position to either take the high-upside Greg Robinson, or the strong, powerful run-blocking Jake Matthews. With Robinson gone, Matthews emerges as the favorite here and enters the locker room as a Day 1 starter.
7. Tampa Bay Bucs - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
With Lovie Smith and Jeff Tedford now in charge of the Bucs offense, they could be looking for a different set of personnel, and potentially a new quarterback with their first pick in the Tampa Bay organization. If they go quarterback and move on from Mike Glennon, Derek Carr is the favorite for this selection.
If they opt to stick with Glennon, finding a tight end weapon to give him three big, long receiving options could allow him to make the most of his big arm. With Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson outside, Eric Ebron would have the opportunity to dominate the seam in a Jimmy Graham-like way for this offense.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Just three drafts ago, the Vikings reached on Christian Ponder within the top 20 in their search for a franchise quarterback. After reaching on a passer that didn’t have first-round upside, the Vikings now find themselves in the quarterback market once again.
While they may hesitate to take another passer, Bortles will fit far better than Ponder did when he entered the NFL. Matt Cassel has proven he can be a capable starter for this team, so there will be no rush for Bortles to play. And with time, in Norv Turner’s offense, Bortles could become one of the better passers in the NFL.
9. Buffalo Bills: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Adding another pass-rushing dynamic to this Bills defense would do wonders to maximize the depth of talent they have across their defensive roster. Anthony Barr is a bit of a project, as he’s only played two years on the defensive side of the ball, but he wouldn’t be rushed to start immediately for the Bills.
With the upside he possesses and his potential impact late in Year 1 to play alongside Mario Williams and Kiko Alonso, he could be exactly what this team needs as it hopes to make a playoff push in Doug Marrone’s second year.
10. Detroit Lions: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
While cornerback is the position I’d address if I were the Lions, and Darqueze Dennard is a perfect in-state fit, I think they’ll look elsewhere with their first-round pick after all of the cornerbacks they’ve invested in the past few drafts. They’ll have plenty of options at receiver later in the draft (and they need more than one), so ideally, I think they’d like to pass at the position at No. 10 overall.
Louis Delmas is potentially a cap cut, and Clinton-Dix could fill his spot with better upside at strong safety and likely for less money. The Lions will likely use at least one of their top-100 picks on a receiver, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they target Mike Evans or Odell Beckham at this spot.
11. Tennessee Titans: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
The Titans have generally aimed for high-upside players with their first-round picks, and Ealy certainly fits that mold. Able to play anywhere from a 5-technique all the way outside to a stand-up 3-4 rusher, Ealy can give this already talented defensive line an upgrade in versatility.
Not a finished product and a bit of a reach at this spot, the Ealy pick will pay dividends for a team that boasts the creative Ray Horton as their defensive coordinator.
12. New York Giants: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
For the past four or five drafts, many (myself included) have mocked the Giants to take a linebacker in the first round, and it never seems to happen. They have an obvious need at the position, but they’ve seemed to refuse to upgrade it in the first round.
Offensive tackle is certainly an option as well, but the chance to grab Mosley who, next to Jon Beason, can make this unit a strength instead of a perceived consistent weakness. Mosley is as NFL-ready as they come.
13. St. Louis Rams: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Is Pryor a reach at No. 13 overall? Absolutely, and I’m more so making this pick with a likely trade down for the Rams in mind. They’ve made it clear that they’re willing to move down multiple times to get as much value out of this class as possible.
With safety being one of their biggest needs coming into the draft, Pryor makes sense for them to land in the late first round, and he should be available (and a more realistic value) in the early 20s.
14. Chicago Bears: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
While it’s not a glaring need, the Bears should certainly consider adding one of the best defensive players in the draft that fits their physical defensive mentality the way Darqueze Dennard does. With Charles Tillman returning from injury next season and possibly leaving as a free agent, finding his future replacement wouldn’t be a bad thing to lock up for the future.
Dennard is a physical, press-capable cornerback who is easily the top defensive back in the 2014 draft in my eyes. He is a worthwhile top-20 pick. I don’t think he falls much further than this on Draft Day, especially considering he fits what NFL teams want in their cornerbacks.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Despite their recent investments in the offensive line, the Steelers still need to invest in the position to help the transition of Ben Roethlisberger from a powerful, mobile quarterback into a truer pocket passer.
Lewan won’t receive rave reviews from the people around the Michigan program, but on the field, he’s equally, if not more, talented than last year’s top two overall picks. He can step in on Day 1 and be a legitimate starter. He could potentially become one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The Ravens need a consistent pass-catcher to help pick up third downs for Joe Flacco, a void that Anquan Boldin previously filled when he was in Baltimore. While they need to upgrade the receiver position later in the draft, the idea of Jace Amaro paired with Dennis Pitta at tight end is a very intriguing option for an evolving NFL.
Amaro could easily be considered the best tight end in the draft and is versatile in the same way Jimmy Graham has become a weapon for the Saints.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
A dream fit for both parties, Aaron Donald to the Cowboys is a perfect scenario that Dallas fans would clearly love. The Cowboys need interior pass-rushing help, and Donald could make Demarcus Ware and, in turn, the defensive backs more productive and far better against the pass.
Donald dominated during the Senior Bowl week and proved that, despite his lack of great height and length, he can get the better of offensive guards at the NFL level. If he were two inches taller, he’d be a top-five pick.
18. New York Jets: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
I’ll start by saying that I don’t think Mike Evans is a wise decision, as I think his lack of route development or true separation ability is a bit concerning. Don't expect him to start and produce early in the NFL. That being said, the success of Alshon Jeffery and the three big weapons the Bears boasted this year likely will be copied by NFL teams.
The Jets need to give Geno Smith more legitimate weapons, and pushing Stephen Hill to a more situational role would be best. Evans, paired with Santonio Holmes (if he re-signs), could do wonders for Geno Smith’s Year 2 development.
19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The Dolphins are in desperate need of offensive line help, and they are almost a lock to draft someone at that position in the first round. They’ll be drafting for need, which can lead to missing on better talent in that draft slot. However, thankfully this offensive tackle class is strong early on, so they’ll have a handful of options at No. 19 overall to find a starter.
Zack Martin played like an NFL offensive tackle during his college career and during the Senior Bowl week of practices, and he could fill-in immediately at either tackle spot. And if he doesn’t work out there or they can get another offensive tackle later in the draft, he has Pro Bowl potential at guard.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The Cardinals nearly made the playoffs with Carson Palmer at the helm last season. However, Bruce Arians looks for a certain type of strong-armed quarterback, and Carr can fit the mold he desires very well.
The Cardinals are surprisingly set across the roster. They do not have any glaring needs (outside of offensive tackle, where Arians has proved he doesn’t need great blocking talent) to fill early in the draft. Taking Carr allows for a nice two-year developmental project behind Palmer.
21. Green Bay Packers: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The Packers don’t have any truly glaring needs, but outside of quarterback and running back, they can literally add to any and every position on draft day. With that in mind, they’ll likely opt for the best value on the board that can fit their system.
In this scenario, Hageman can provide that value. They need to add to their defensive line, as they have B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly, and C.J. Wilson all slated for free agency. Hageman can fit at either nose tackle or the five-technique.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
Chip Kelly has proven that his offense can work in the NFL after just one year, and he’s repeatedly shown confidence in himself to produce with whoever he has on that side of the ball. So, the Eagles will likely focus their draft this year on the defensive side of the ball, where they clearly need help at safety, nose tackle and the pass-rushing department.
Ward may not be a household name now, but he dominated during Senior Bowl week at both cornerback and safety, and he showed that he can be an ideal fifth defensive back. He can play the slot if they want to keep Brandon Boykin outside full time as well.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
Potentially the receiver with the highest upside in this class, Beckham may be one of the receivers teams grab in the first round despite the remarkable depth of the position throughout this class.
The Chiefs will likely be targeting playmakers in this draft for Andy Reid’s offense, and finding a long, athletic receiver to develop into Reid’s feature weapon would help Alex Smith greatly as he hopes to continue to grow in the offense.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
The Bengals have drafted so well the past few seasons that it’s tough to find what they truly need this year. I’ll lean toward linebacker as of now, as they likely need to find a third linebacker to go with Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict.
Shazier won’t have to go far from his college team if he ends up being the 24th overall pick, and despite his lack of ideal size, there aren’t a whole lot of concerns about Shazier fitting in the NFL as a weakside linebacker.
25. San Diego Chargers: Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech
Despite investing in the position early in the draft multiple times before, the Chargers are still in need of pass-rushing help. And after seeing the Seahawks consistently get pressure on Peyton Manning with just four or five rushers in the Super Bowl and how that rattled him, the Chargers would be wise to follow suit in regards to the building of their roster.
Attaochu didn’t get the chance to dominate the last two years at Georgia Tech the way somebody his talent level should have, as the defense he played in didn’t allow him to consistently produce. But he’s worth a first-round pick, and he could go a lot higher than this after his NFL combine workout.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Will Johnny Manziel fall this late? I doubt it. There’s just too much interest and too many smart evaluators claiming he’s worth a first-round pick to slip this late. That being said, I think it’s very possible for teams in the top 10 to look elsewhere at quarterback instead of Manziel, allowing the opportunity for the Browns to move up from this pick to secure him.
I like Manziel’s game, and I’m excited to see what he can do in the NFL. But I think he needs a lot of work and development if he hopes to last in the NFL as a long-term starter and become the electric, devastating quarterback that his athleticism and creativity may allow.
27. New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn
After his fantastic Senior Bowl week, Dee Ford could end up going a lot higher than the late first round, especially if his combine numbers compare favorably to other top linebackers in this class. However, as of now, I think he’s best in a 3-4 speed rushing role.
The Saints should be looking to add to their pass rush, and Rex Ryan would love the opportunity to work with a devastatingly quick rusher like Ford in his defense.
28. Carolina Panthers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Marqise Lee may be a bit forgotten after his USC team struggled this season and became more of a run-focused offense once Ed Orgeron took over. However, the once 5-star recruit has ample NFL talent to be an even better pro than Robert Woods, who went within the top 50 last year.
The Panthers need to add more talent to their receiver unit, especially since Steve Smith doesn’t have too many good years left in him. Lee is a great value at this point and can develop into Cam Newton’s favorite target.
29. New England Patriots: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Patriots have done a great job of building their team by fixing positions before they become a glaring weakness. In this case, the Patriots have an aging Vince Wilfork coming off injury next season. Finding his long-term replacement at such a key position would be a wise decision, especially with Nix potentially on the board.
Nix may end going a lot higher than this, but teams will first be curious to see him in Indianapolis and get a better feel for where he’s at health-wise before dubbing him a top-20 selection.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
After failing to grab a Super Bowl despite three straight seasons of reaching the conference title game (including one Super Bowl appearance), the 49ers may be a bit disheartened to see the Seahawks win it all. However, the 49ers can hang their hat on the fact that they aren’t far away from being the best NFC team next year and may even enter the season as the favorite in the conference.
Cornerback has long been a position of need for the Niners, and with this pick, combined with their developmental draft picks in last year’s class, they could quickly become an even more suffocating defense than Seattle.
31. Denver Broncos: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
After a drubbing in the Super Bowl, the Broncos likely found a handful of positions they need to upgrade. They will likely consider every defensive position group, but I think they’ll lean toward secondary early in the draft, especially considering they can get a very talented player here.
Fuller is a quick, balanced cornerback who doesn’t fit the mold of the Seahawks cornerback that other teams may begin to covet. However, he possesses great ball skills and consistently stays in position vertically.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
After winning the Super Bowl, the Seahawks clearly showed they don’t have many glaring weaknesses across their roster. However, with such a young roster, they’ll likely be in a financial pinch in the coming years, and they can’t afford to miss on draft picks as their top talents become free agents they can’t pay.
The Seahawks will likely look at offensive line and cornerback as positions to address, likely picking the best value at those two positions. With Kouandjio on the board, the Seahawks can’t pass on having a mauling right tackle for the future, especially with their style in the run game.