Mocking the first round of May's NFL draft is more intimidating than usual. There are just so many directions in which this draft could play out.
The problem is that the majority of the teams drafting early are desperate to identify their quarterback of the future.
With Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel, there are three quarterbacks obviously worthy of being selected early in the first round. With players like defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and offensive tackle Greg Robinson, however, the most physically dominant players in this draft are not quarterbacks.
This creates for a lot of mock variables, and drafts already have enough of those. Although all of this makes it tougher to lay out a mock, it also makes the process more interesting. Here is my latest effort.
Langford's 2014 NFL Mock Draft
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
The Houston Texans once passed on running back Reggie Bush with the No. 1 overall selection and instead drafted an athletic freak of a defensive end in Mario Williams. Once again, they have the top pick in the NFL draft and there is an athletic freak at defensive end available.
The Texans won't go down the same path this time, however. The need at quarterback is just too big to ignore, and with a competent signal-caller, this franchise will be right back in the playoff mix.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Jadeveon Clowney, DL, South Carolina
This is the final draft choice from the haul of picks the Rams acquired by trading the No. 2 overall selection, which was used on Robert Griffin III, to the Washington Redskins
Although, they may turn it into even more picks. The Rams are not desperate to draft a quarterback and defensive line is one of the strengths of the team.
In the end, I see the Rams taking the rare talent of Clowney and then possibly picking up extra draft picks by trading defensive end Chris Long.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
As CBS' Dane Brugler points out, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater raised some concerns with his performance, or lack thereof, at the combine:
Teddy Bridgewater Saturday afternoon: "I will be running here. I will run at the combine." Why back out a few hours later?— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 24, 2014
With a strong pro day, though, Bridgewater will ease any concerns created during the combine, and I expect this polished quarterback to do just that.
As for the Jaguars, this franchise must find not just a quarterback but a leader and face of the franchise for fans to rally around. Bridgewater is not as dynamic a playmaker as Manziel is, but he is smart, disciplined and poised.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Cleveland Browns are reportedly exploring not taking a quarterback with this selection.
NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah was on The Dan Patrick Show and passed along that notion. NFL.com's Marc Sessler put Jeremiah's comments in print:
Their guy is (Fresno State quarterback) Derek Carr and they're going to take a different player with the fourth pick and they want to take Derek Carr with their second one (at No. 26)...I heard that from several different places.
The problem with this is that there is no guarantee Carr will be there at No. 26. Also, talent like Manziel is rare. Manziel's success in the NFL is not guaranteed, but there is no doubt he has the talent to be a special player on the next level.
I don't see the Browns passing on that opportunity.
5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The Oakland Raiders have many needs, which gives them solid options here, despite the top three quarterbacks already being off the board.
I have the Raiders going with an athletic stud on defense.
Khalil Mack will give the Raiders a needed boost in the pass rush and also give them greater scheme versatility in their hybrid defense.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Atlanta Falcons must get more physical in the offensive and defensive trenches. That makes their draft pick in this scenario easy. Auburn tackle Greg Robinson has the perfect body to handle tackle in the NFL, and his athleticism is off the charts.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Sammy Watkins stands out among all the receivers in this class. He doesn't have dominant size, but he has all the other tools needed to dominate in the NFL. Although wide receiver is not the biggest need for the Buccaneers, they could use another option to pair with receiver Vincent Jackson and tight end Timothy Wright to help open up the offense.
Combine that with Watkins' value here, and this is a strong pick for Tampa Bay.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Which QB will have the best NFL career?
Opinions on the draft stock of Derek Carr vary wildly. For instance, of the four mock drafts posted by CBS, only one has Carr going in the first round.
That would be the mock by Rob Rang, and Rang agrees with me that the Vikings will select Carr.
It makes sense. He has the arm talent to be worthy of a first-round selection, and the Vikings are desperate for a quarterback they can build around.
9. Buffalo Bills: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
As a converted running back, Anthony Barr is raw, but he is athletic. He is a natural pass-rusher and has all the tools to be a complete linebacker.
The Buffalo Bills could use this kind of athleticism on the edge of their front seven.
10. Detroit Lions: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Detroit Lions must gain consistency. One way to do this on defense is to have a reliable and athletic middle linebacker who can clean up behind the Lions' fierce defensive line.
C.J. Mosley is that guy.
He isn't a dominant pass-rushing linebacker, but he is a complete and disciplined linebacker.
11. Tennessee Titans: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
After spending the majority of last season being perceived as the top tackle available, Jake Matthews has taken a back seat to Greg Robinson. Still, Matthews is an excellent tackle prospect.
He is a good value here at No. 11 for the Titans, and Tennessee badly needs help on the edge of its offensive line.
12. New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Eric Ebron is an exciting pass-catching talent. He has great athleticism and will be able to stretch a defense with his ability to get deep. Check out his speed in the below tweet from NFL Network:
The New York Giants need this.
One of Eli Manning's strengths is throwing the deep ball on the outside. Last season, this found Manning lofting up deep balls into double coverage far too often.
With Ebron, defenses won't be able to pay as much attention to receivers going deep.
13. St. Louis Rams: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The St. Louis Rams will devote their second first-round choice to the offensive trenches.
Taylor Lewan has long been viewed as a first-round talent. After posting a 4.87-seconds 40-yard dash, the 309-pound prospect is now a certain lock for the first half of the first round.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Chicago Bears have to add defensive talent in any way possible. Timmy Jernigan is a great place to start.
He is not the kind of player who will produce overwhelming stats, but he will provide a strong building block in the interior of the defensive line. Jernigan will clog up rushing lanes and occupy defenders.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Oklahoma State corner Justin Gilbert wowed at the combine, but Darqueze Dennard will still be the first corner off the board.
His physical style is a great fit for Pittsburgh, and he is the perfect prospect to take the torch from the almost-34-year-old Ike Taylor in the Steelers' defensive backfield.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Calvin Pryor is a complete free safety. His potential impact can be felt in the comment from NFL.com's Gil Brandt that is passed along by Bleacher Report's Zach Kruse:
Although the Cowboys are desperate for help along the defensive line, they also need serious help in the defensive backfield, and Pryor is a strong value here.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The Baltimore Ravens have to reshape their offensive line. Both of last season's starting tackles are free agents, and the group was awful anyway.
Zack Martin will help solidify that group. The only question is what position he will do that from.
Rob Rang points out a few qualities Martin has working against him at tackle: "Martin does not possess great height, arm length or foot speed."
NFL Network's Mike Mayock does not have the same concerns:
Whether at tackle or guard, the Ravens can use him.
18. New York Jets: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
If Geno Smith is going to develop into a quality NFL starter, the New York Jets must get him some weapons to work with.
Mike Evans has good size and the hands and ball skills to be a threat all over the field. His size will make him a trusted weapon on third down and in the red zone. This will be invaluable for Smith and the Jets.
19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio has a few things working against him in this draft.
Pro Football Talk highlights some of that:
Report: Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio fails some physicals because of arthritic knee http://t.co/6kxZSSo1ET— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) February 22, 2014
Along with his concerns, Kouandjio brings an ideal body for tackle and lots of quality game tape from his time at Alabama.
Considering Miami has a pressing need to rebuild its offensive line, Kouandjio is worth the risk here.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
Morgan Moses is not a great value here, but the Arizona Cardinals must improve their offensive line.
Still, Moses has wonderful size and can move. Check him out in the video provided by the NFL:
This is a team that has an aging quarterback with a propensity to throw to the wrong team when under pressure, and it plays in a conference full of intimidating defenses. Improving the offensive line must be a priority.
21. Green Bay Packers: Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt
Aaron Donald is a bit undersized, but he makes up for that with impressive athleticism. Check out his impressive showing in the 40 courtesy of the following tweet from NFL on ESPN:
Pitt DT Aaron Donald weighs 285 pounds and unofficially ran a 4.65 in the 40 yard dash today. #FasterAndFaster— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) February 25, 2014
The Green Bay Packers must get more physical at the point of attack on defense, and there is no one available here that will help them do that more in this scenario than Donald.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a quality free safety with the range to help deter opposing offenses from going deep. The Eagles desperately need this kind of help after finishing dead last in the NFL in pass defense this past season.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Marqise Lee lacks size, but he is a dangerous weapon. He has excellent leaping ability and ball skills. He has solid speed, hands and route-running ability.
Kansas City needs someone to help it open up its attack.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Justin Gilbert turned heads with a stellar showing at the combine, but his draft stock will still be limited by the fact that there are solid corners in this draft that will be available after the first round.
Still, he is too talented to drop past No. 24.
The Bengals don't have a pressing need for corners, but with 35-year-old Terence Newman, extra depth is needed in Cincinnati's defensive backfield.
25. San Diego Chargers: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
Marcus Roberson has good size and feet. He will be a physical corner and an asset in the run and pass game.
The Chargers need all the help on pass defense they can get and shouldn't wait past their first pick to land that help.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
I have Manziel going to the Browns at No. 4, and now I have Cleveland giving him a familiar-styled weapon.
At Texas A&M, Manziel enjoyed throwing to the lengthy Mike Evans. Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin brings similar size, and he would be a nice safety-blanket option for Manziel, or whoever the Browns line up under center next season.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Ryan Shazier has good athleticism and instincts. Although he needs to become more consistent, he is a sure and strong tackler.
The Saints need this. Although great strides were made in New Orleans on defense last season, that unit was still far too soft at the point of attack.
28. Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
For years, the Panthers have enjoyed the services of an undersized receiver who can still play on the outside due to his explosiveness, strength and ball skills with Steve Smith.
Brandin Cooks is as close to a mirror image of Smith as I've seen, and the Panthers must get more options to help open up the passing game.
29. New England Patriots: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Free-agent cornerback Aqib Talib may be back in New England next season. Still, even if the Patriots do re-sign the corner, they still need additional talent in the secondary.
Jason Verrett lack of size is a concern, but his strong coverage skills are not. Verrett will be outstanding in the slot, and he has the potential to be able to man receivers on the outside as well.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
The 49ers have to make sure they give quarterback Colin Kaepernick plenty of weapons. So even though it appears the franchise is close to re-signing receiver Anquan Boldin, adding another receiver in the draft is a strong idea.
Odell Beckham Jr. is the best choice here because of his speed. That will bring another dimension to the 49ers offense and help open up the field for the running game.
31. Denver Broncos: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Kony Ealy, as this tweet by CBS' Will Brinson highlights, is a phenomenal athlete:
Kony Ealy 6.83 3-cone drill compares favorably to ... LeSean McCoy?? Shady had 6.82 at Pitt Pro Day: http://t.co/LYdruturz4— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) February 24, 2014
He is not the most complete defensive end in this draft, but he is a natural pass-rusher.
The Denver Broncos need a boost in their pass rush. They also need players who figure to make an instant impact, and Ealy will be able to do that.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Ra'Shede Hageman has impressive athleticism, but that hasn't translated into results on the football field. This makes him a natural here.
Pete Carroll likes to grab athletic underachievers who fit his style of play and get the best out of them. Hageman falls in line with that mold, and he fills a need for Seattle.