The 2014 NFL draft is full of uncertainty. There is great talent available at the top and all through the draft. There is not, however, a clear pecking order at most of the positions.
Combine this with the assumptions that there are a host of teams sitting at the top of the draft in desperate need of a franchise quarterback but that the most dominant talent is not found at quarterback position...there are almost an infinite number of ways this first round can go.
Here is the one way I see it going.
Langford's 2014 NFL Mock Draft
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Selecting a quarterback No. 1 overall does not mean the Houston Texans will be going for the best player available. Still, this team needs to take a quarterback.
The Texans have some good offensive weapons in place and a competent defense. A good quarterback could make all the difference.
For those reasons, I like Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater for the Texans. I believe he is the most pro-ready quarterback in this class. That said, it would appear the Texans are leaning toward Central Florida's Blake Bortles.
The Orlando Sentinel's Paul Tenorio passes along the latest hint that this is the direction the Texans are headed:
The Houston Texans officially hired former UCF assistant George Godsey. Only adds to the Blake Bortles speculation: http://t.co/r5pxtxqKZ4— Paul Tenorio (@osknights) February 10, 2014
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Jadeveon Clowney, DL, South Carolina
It is easy to mock this mock selection. Defensive line is the strength of the St. Louis Rams.
This pick still makes sense, however. The St. Louis Rams could go quarterback here, but Sam Bradford is under contract for next season and has shown promise.
So, that leaves the Rams free to take the best player available, and that is Jadeveon Clowney. He has the size and athleticism to play any position on the Rams 4-3 defensive line.
Although the Rams could look to trade this pick, I believe it makes more sense to take a player of Clowney's caliber and then trade Chris Long for draft picks if the Rams want to spread the talent wealth.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Which QB will have the best NFL career?
With defensive-minded Gus Bradley at the helm of the Jacksonville Jaguars, defense is a possibility here.
Still, Bradley can use his defensive acumen to mask holes on that side of the ball. There is nothing he can do to mask the gaping hole at quarterback.
Bridgewater is a polished player who has shown the ability to make correct audibles and read a defense. In other words, he is not another Blaine Gabbert.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
I can't tell anymore if I'm mocking this selection because I think it will happen or I want it to happen.
I want to see this because the offense would be potentially dynamic with the playmaking skills of Johnny Manziel being paired with wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron.
5. Oakland Raiders: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
In a B/R video by Adam Lefkoe, Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle suggests there is only one quarterback the Raiders would consider with this pick: Bridgewater.
I don't think he will be available, and this quarterback-needy franchise will instead turn to defense.
The Raiders need athleticism and an improved pass rush on defense. Anthony Barr is raw, but he will bring both of those qualities.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
This is a great fit for the Atlanta Falcons. The birds need to get stronger in the trenches on offense and defense. Auburn tackle Greg Robinson will help them solidify the offensive line in a powerful way.
For my money, other than Clowney, Robinson is the most physically dominant player in this class.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers showed promise in the passing game last year as Mike Glennon got used to the starting job.
Glennon had the luxury of throwing to wide receiver Vincent Jackson and tight end Timothy Wright, but this offense could still use an explosive threat opposite Jackson to help open up the field.
There is not a more explosive player to add on the outside than Clemson's Sammy Watkins.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Derek Carr has a wonderful arm. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him use that arm talent to become the best quarterback from this class.
Still, his footwork and ability to withstand an NFL pass rush are questionable, and it will leave him on the board until No. 8.
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks helps sum up Carr:
Derek Carr's footwork is inconsistent in the pocket. His overcomes his flaws w/superior arm talent, but better footwork would raise his play— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) January 25, 2014
He won't drop further than No. 8, however. The Vikings must find a competent quarterback while running back Adrian Peterson still has some "awesome" in him.
9. Buffalo Bills: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Last season, Buffalo made great strides on defense. That is thanks in large part to the wonderful play of their defensive tackles and the development of rookie Kiko Alonso at inside linebacker.
The Bills have an opportunity to cement that front seven by adding the range and cover skills of C.J. Mosley.
10. Detroit Lions: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Playing linebacker for the Detroit Lions should not be all that hard. Their fierce defensive line helps keep blockers off of everyone else. Still, Detroit has received nothing but erratic play from their linebackers.
Khalil Mack would be an instant upgrade. He has the explosion to get into the backfield, but his real value comes with his ability to stay disciplined on defense while constantly being around the ball.
11. Tennessee Titans: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Jake Matthews spent almost all of last season being considered the best tackle in this class and a lock as a top-10 pick.
As EagleDamnWar tweets, ESPN is one of the growing masses to have Robinson ahead of Matthews:
Auburn OT Greg Robinson now listed #2 ahead of Jake Matthews. http://t.co/S4C8KBQY27— EagleDamnWar (@EagleDamnWar) January 30, 2014
With Robinson grabbing people's attention, I see Matthews slipping a bit, but not beyond the Titans. Tennessee must get better blocking on the edge of their offensive line.
12. New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
What does Eli Manning do really well? Well, yes. He throws interceptions really well, but he also throws a wonderful deep ball.
That is part of the reason he had 27 picks last year. Manning would look for big plays down the field, but too often that had him throwing into double coverage.
If the athletic Ebron were added to the Giants roster, he would command safety attention and open up the field, which should help Manning complete more passes to his teammates.
13. St. Louis Rams: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
With Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, the St. Louis Rams have a decent group of young corners. Both lack consistency, and neither projects to have the skill to be a true shutdown corner.
The lengthy yet quick Darqueze Dennard does. He is a good value here and will help the Rams complete their secondary.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Bears have to load up on defense at every opportunity.
Timmy Jernigan would be a great building block. Although he won't do much to boost the Bears pass rush, he will be a consistent force in the run game, and Chicago must get stronger in the middle of their defense.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
It is easy to argue that the improvements made by the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line as this past season went along are reason for the Steelers to go defense with this pick.
I disagree. This team went from being terrible to a playoff contender because the line finally started to play competently. Pittsburgh must now build on that success.
Right tackle Marcus Gilbert is a potential long-term answer on the right side, but his contract is up after next season and he will be looking for a big raise.
Pittsburgh could ease the fear of losing Gilbert by drafting Taylor Lewan and allowing him to compete for the starting spot on the left side with the mediocre Kelvin Beachum. The Steelers could then move Beachum to the right side in 2015 or re-sign Gilbert while also having their potential franchise left tackle in Lewan.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
The Baltimore Ravens will be hoping all those teams I just had drafting offensive linemen do, in fact, not draft offensive linemen.
Both of the starting tackles from last season are free agents and the line was terrible anyway.
This teams needs a rebuild among the offensive front five.
Cyrus Kouandjio may have been a complete disaster in the Sugar Bowl, but he's a beast with ample good video against other top opponents.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Calvin Pryor is a late bloomer in terms of draft hype, but he is the most complete free safety in this class. He is a ready tackler in the run game, and he has the range and instincts to handle man and zone coverage.
ESPN's Mel Kiper points out that there are at least some NFL teams who agree with me:
Momentum ... RT @MelKiperESPN: Don't assume Clinton-Dix of Bama is a lock to be the top safety taken. Calvin Pryor is ahead for some teams.— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) February 4, 2014
The Dallas Cowboys have needed a free safety for years and their pass defense was a joke last year. They'd be fools to pass on Pryor should he be available.
18. New York Jets: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Mike Evans is the exact kind of target that quarterback Geno Smith needs.
Evans is tall, physical and has good hands. He can make catches all over the field, but he is the safety blanket on third downs and in the red zone that a young, erratic quarterback like Smith needs.
19. Miami Dolphins: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
If Antonio Richardson can consistently play with effort and good fundamentals, he will be a beast. He may be best served as a right tackle where his dominant run-blocking will be best used, but that would be a good fit in Miami.
Richardson has trouble getting consistent knee bend, however, and it is questionable whether he was giving consistent effort while at Tennessee.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Zack Martin is a quality NFL lineman. There is little doubt there. He is a hard worker with good strength and footwork.
There are some questions as to his ability to handle NFL edge-rushers, however. Rob Rang explains: "Martin does not possess great height, arm length or foot speed."
No. 20 is still a good value for a quality guard, and the Arizona Cardinals are desperate for offensive line help.
21. Green Bay Packers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Louis Nix III certainly could go higher. Many mocks have him going at No. 15 to the Steelers. It makes sense. He has the potential to be a quality nose tackle, and that is a rare commodity.
I think he will slip due to to reasons that Dr. Dave Siebert could explain far better than I ever could:
ICYMI, my take Notre Dame's Louis Nix III, the meniscus, platelet rich plasma (PRP), and his NFL draft stock: http://t.co/aX82B7rh3G— Dr. Dave Siebert (@DaveMSiebert) February 12, 2014
It will be a risk to take a player coming off of knee surgery, but he is worth that risk here for the Green Bay Packers.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
The Philadelphia Eagles will take the free safety the Cowboys pass on.
The Eagles were last in the NFL in pass defense this past season, and they need someone to help clean up the back end and limit big plays.
Ha Ha Clinton Dix can do that. He is fast and has good ball skills.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Marqise Lee needs polish to be a complete receiver, but he has the athleticism and tools to be a deep threat from day one.
The Kansas City Chiefs need that. This offense was far too reliant on running back Jamaal Charles, and aside from Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs shouldn't be contented with any of their other wide receivers.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Cincinnati Bengals are not desperate for corner help, but with Terrance Newman being 35 and the untested Dre Kirkpatrick behind him, the Bengals would be wise to bring in more talent.
Justin Gilbert has good length and strength. His top-end speed is not ideal, but he makes up for this with his ball skills and physical play at the line.
25. San Diego Chargers: E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
E.J. Gaines is a similar player to Gilbert. He is just a hair smaller, but he has good size and will be able to play in man and zone schemes.
Draft Mecca's Ethan Hammerman points out that Gaines has a limited ceiling, but that he is a complete player fit for any system:
27. E.J. Gaines, CB, Mizzou. So underrated, can play any D and is really feisty. How high is his upside, really, though? #EthanhammTop50— Ethan Hammerman (@Ethanhamm) February 9, 2014
The Chargers would be happy with a player who can play any kind of pass defense in any kind of scheme.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Perhaps this is another pick I'm mocking to the Browns because I want to see it. The lengthy Kelvin Benjamin would give Manziel (if he's drafted fourth as I mocked) the kind of bail-out option he had at Texas A&M with Mike Evans.
This is not a bad strategy for the Browns, either. They have some young talent on defense. They can afford to devote both of their first-round selections to the offensive side of the ball.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
The Saints defense made impressive strides from 2012 to 2013, but this group was still weak in the front seven.
Ryan Shazier would bring needed physicality and tackling. He has a nose for the ball and the athleticism to get into the backfield.
28. Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Carolina Panthers only weakness is their passing offense. Cam Newton is inconsistent, which isn't surprising given that his receivers are inconsistent at getting open.
At 5'11", but with good strength and explosion, Brandin Cooks is eerily reminiscent of current Panther Steve Smith. Cooks could learn from Smith while also helping open up the Panthers offense.
29. New England Patriots: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The New England Patriots could go in many directions here. I believe they will address the defensive side of the ball and opt to look towards free agency for the weapons Tom Brady needs in the passing game.
Aqib Talib is a free agent this offseason, and the Patriots need help in the secondary even if he does stay.
Jason Verrett is just 5'10" and 176 pounds and may be limited to nickel corner, but he is tremendous in coverage.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The San Francisco 49ers were an infinitely better team when both Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin were on the field.
Boldin is 33 and a free agent.
The 49ers saw how important it was to give quarterback Colin Kaepernick weapons last season, and they should ensure he has quality options next year.
Allen Robinson is a polished receiver who should provide a consistent target for Kaepernick.
31. Denver Broncos: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Ealy has all the tools to be a dominant pass-rusher. He has good length, strength and explosion.
He is not a complete defensive end at this point, but the Broncos must boost their pass rush, and Ealy will be an instant upgrade.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
With one of the greatest pass defenses the league has ever seen, the Seahawks seemingly don't have a big need at cornerback. As we have seen, however, the Seahawks often surprise onlookers with their picks.
They will take the player who best fits into their system, and Marcus Roberson does that. He is big and physical. He can stymie receivers at the line and drop into zone coverage.