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2014 NFL Mock Draft: Picks Each Team Must Make to Win 1st Round

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2014 NFL Mock Draft: Picks Each Team Must Make to Win 1st Round
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Each NFL team has a different view on how it can win the draft.

In the 2014 NFL draft, which happens to be one of the deepest in recent memory, a team can "win" the proceedings by taking the best overall value on the board in relation to need.

While people can debate about the need-value ratio, the formula will vary by team. As things stand right now, with free agency on the horizon, each team can win the draft in the following manner.

 

1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It is hard for Houston to not win the first round unless it overthinks the selection.

While the upside of a guy like Blake Bortles is nice, Teddy Bridgewater remains the most pro-ready passer and the best overall player in the class. Perhaps the only issue scouts have with Bridgewater is his size, but as ESPN's Adam Schefter points out, he put those issues to bed at the combine:

Bridgewater is a franchise quarterback who will not be without his struggles, but he is easily the best way to ensure that Texans fans will look back on this class in a few years with a smile.

 

2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Sure, St. Louis could grab an offensive tackle here with the goal of keeping Sam Bradford healthy, but that does not make a lot of sense, as they have two selections in the round and the tackle class is so deep.

While some may disagree, grabbing one of the rarest prospects in recent memory with an additional pick to spare seems like a pretty good idea.

Jadeveon Clowney is an elite prospect who immediately makes a difference for the Rams in a rotation. Best player available is the rule of thumb here, and the Rams still have another pick to work with.

 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

There's been a lot of discussion about Bortles overtaking Bridgewater as the draft's top signal-caller, but the fact remains that he has some fundamentals to iron out before he can take the crown.

Bortles is a bit of a project, but his hefty ceiling makes him worthy of the pick here by Jacksonville. As a local kid who is an ideal pocket passer for the long term, Jacksonville finally gets a face of the franchise who can grow right along with it in the coming years.

 

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

The most polarizing prospect of all, Johnny Manziel has too much intrigue about his game at the professional level for Cleveland to take a pass here—especially with two picks in the round.

Some experts, including an NFL scout who spoke to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, believe Manziel's arm is pro-ready: "Hit or miss? What the hell are they talking about? ... He's a better passer than the guy (Russell Wilson) who won the Super Bowl, and he's got a better arm. Here comes the pressure, a guy breaks open and he finds the receiver. Does he have a gun? No. But he doesn't have a bad arm at all."

Perhaps, but it is Manziel's ability to extend plays with his feet that sees him come off the board here. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had great success with Robert Griffin III, so the Browns may finally have an answer under center.

 

5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Oakland can score a win here by not panicking with this selection.

The roster has a wealth of needs, and the Raiders can stay out of trouble by resisting the temptation to reach for a quarterback.

Instead, the Raiders can grab arguably the top player in the draft in Sammy Watkins and make the life of a new quarterback down the road much, much easier.

 

6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Atlanta is not a team that is one player away from contention.

However, the Falcons can get much closer to the promised land by selecting an impact player who changes the complexion of an entire unit.

That would be Khalil Mack. The Buffalo product can line up any way coordinator Mike Nolan chooses and create consistent pressure, which will do much to mask the inadequacies of the unit overall. As a team drafting for impact, Atlanta wins with Mack.

 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Any team can win by grabbing an offensive tackle who draws comparisons to Larry Allen.

This is a thing with Greg Robinson:

Robinson's ascension to top tackle in the class has been quick and justified. He lands with Tampa Bay, which surely has a desire to end the Donald Penn nightmare. Defense is a sexy pick with Lovie Smith in town, but that is also a reason the Buccaneers will go offense—Smith does not need more elite talent for his scheme to work well.

 

8. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

With a game similar to Manziel's and measurements at the combine that compare to his polarizing counterpart, Derek Carr has quietly solidified himself as a first-round pick.

In fact, some apparently believe he is the top quarterback in the class, as detailed by NFL Network's Albert Breer:

While that is quite the stretch, Carr is a heck of a consolation prize for Minnesota near the end of the top 10. Carr can create with his feet when he does not hand off to Adrian Peterson, so this seems to be the perfect fit.

 

9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina 

The long-term plan in Buffalo consists of properly building around second-year quarterback EJ Manuel.

While other areas of need may be more pressing, taking an approach that is similar to how Cincinnati has treated Andy Dalton is a smart route for the Bills.

With that in mind, Eric Ebron is a safe pick who immediately contributes. Whether he consistently provides a safety outlet in the red zone or creates big plays after the catch, he drastically improves Manuel's odds of success.

 

10. Detroit Lions: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

With Detroit seemingly content to wait to take a corner thanks to the depth of the class and no prospect standing out at the position as worthy of this slot, the Lions can look elsewhere.

While he's not the best player available, Mike Evans changes the complexion of the offense in Detroit rather quickly.

Calvin Johnson has needed a reliable running mate across the field for quite some time, and Evans is a massive target who has sure hands and can easily exploit the single coverage that will surely come his way.

 

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

Tennessee needs both an identity and a leader on defense. It can grab both with Alabama's C.J. Mosley, who is a rangy linebacker sure to make an impact on the first snap of his pro career.

Mosley has enough athleticism to hold up in coverage if necessary, but he will make the bulk of his cash in Tennessee as a dominant force against the run.

Under the tutelage of new coordinator Ray Horton, Mosley will instantly become one of the hottest names among rookie defenders.

 

12. New York Giants: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Evans was certainly in play for the New York Giants before he came off the board, so the front office can turn its attention to a more pressing need.

That need would be keeping Eli Manning off his back. Manning was horrific last year and was consistently under pressure despite the addition of Justin Pugh in the first round, so another talent infusion from a top rookie is necessary.

There was a time when Jake Matthews was considered a lock to go in the top five. Matthews takes a tumble here, and the Giants will be much, much better as a result.

 

13. St. Louis Rams: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

The duo of T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod is simply not going to cut it anymore in St. Louis.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will struggle as a rookie, but his ability to play corner makes him a versatile add who can stay on the field in any situation.

St. Louis has plenty of cash to upgrade other areas in free agency, but safety is something the Rams need to actually build through the draft. With two picks, the Rams suddenly have more building blocks in an already stellar base defense.

 

14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

After blowing away the NFL at the combine, Aaron Donald is officially a lock for the first round, as he reminds some of Cincinnati's Geno Atkins.

With interior pressure such a rare commodity in the pros without blitzing, Chicago will certainly want to keep the trend alive on its unit, as Henry Melton is headed to free agency.

Rather than take a huge risk financially on Melton, who is coming off an ACL tear, the team can simply grab Donald and plug him in right away for a cheaper cost and perhaps bigger upside.

 

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Louis Nix is Mike Mayock's No. 1 defensive tackle in the class for a reason.

Nix is a complete game changer with the way he dictates how things unfold in the trenches, which makes him an ideal nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme.

Pittsburgh has been inadequate at the position for years, so Nix makes all too much sense.

 

16. Dallas Cowboys: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

The elite pass-rushers continue to pour out of Missouri.

Next up is Kony Ealy, who compares favorably to other top former Tigers prospects:

Ealy is versatile enough to fit well in Dallas, where a unit desperately needs help getting to the quarterback and a young, oft-injured secondary continues to develop.

This is a major win for Dallas, as Ealy is a building block who creates an immediate impact.

 

17. Baltimore Ravens: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State 

Despite quarterback issues at Penn State, Allen Robinson managed to post eye-popping film that currently has him in first-round consideration.

Robinson's body of work and measurables make this a rather easy decision for the Baltimore front office, as they are looking to get the most out of a quarterback who will make over $100 million if he lasts the duration of his contract.

Across from Torrey Smith while Dennis Pitta also absorbs coverage, Robinson will surely have a productive rookie year as he develops into a pro threat of his own.

 

18. New York Jets: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

As great as it would be to grab an Anthony Barr here to upgrade the pass rush, there is no way Rex Ryan will throw second-year quarterback Geno Smith to the wolves like that.

Smith needs help in a bad way. Jace Amaro is an obvious fit as someone who blurs the lines between tight end and receiver. He gives Smith a reliable target in any package or scenario and keeps the offense on the field.

Getting the most out of a sophomore quarterback is definitely a win.

 

19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame

While Zack Martin is perhaps not the best overall lineman on the board, the Miami Dolphins need options in the trenches.

As ESPN's Louis Riddick points out, Martin's versatility is a big plus:

This versatility gives the Dolphins options as they look to upgrade four out of the five spots on the line, with center being the only sure thing (for now). Martin will start and play well no matter the spot, which is all the front office wants to hear at this point in the infancy of a unit rebuild.

 

20. Arizona Cardinals: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

While Cyrus Kouandjio's knee issues are a concern for some, the Arizona Cardinals will have no problem taking him here to help better protect veteran quarterback Carson Palmer.

Two scouts who spoke with McGinn about Kouandjio put it best. "Talented guy but still very raw," said one scout. "Still makes raw mistakes. He's got more up side than Matthews. I think he is smart. Just doesn't have much football background." "Outstanding pass protector," another scout said. "You're talking about a left tackle for a long, long time."

Kouandjio is an instant starter and a great value given the slot from both a short- and long-term perspective.

 

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

The Green Bay Packers were one of the most notable teams in attendance at Minnesota's pro day for good reason, as reported by Tom Pelissero of USA Today:

Ra'Shede Hageman is another rare prospect who is scheme-friendly thanks to his size and his speed in the trenches. He stands tall against the run but can also drive blockers back into the passer, making him a valuable commodity for any formation. 

Green Bay has a particular interest, as tackle B.J. Raji is set to hit free agency. It makes for a smooth transition if Hageman makes it to this point.

 

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The Philadelphia Eagles will hit on the defensive side of the ball here in the first, but the exact position is much more difficult to nail down.

Corner is certainly a need, but safety Calvin Pryor is hard to pass up at this point. Pryor's versatility and size are major factors that will help Philadelphia make its decision. These traits are best summed up by Mayock, via Mike Huguenin of NFL.com:

Mayock has Louisville free safety Calvin Pryor as his No. 1 safety. "This is a bigger version of Bob Sanders," Mayock said. Mayock also said Pryor "flies to the football, and he's always around the football." While Pryor was a free safety at Louisville, Mayock said he can see Pryor as a strong safety in the NFL.

Pryor is a solid building block for the unit and solves at least one major issue in Philadelphia. That's a win.

 

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Marqise Lee is quietly one of the top receivers available in the class, although his status as such was put in danger by a torrid final year at USC, which was marred by injuries and organizational dysfunction.

Lee fits well in Kansas City across from Dwayne Bowe. With defenses focused on Bowe and Jamaal Charles out of the backfield, Lee will be productive as a sure-handed No. 2 wideout in Andy Reid's balanced attack.

 

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

It is easy to go back and forth between corner and offensive tackle here for Cincinnati.

Corner is an obvious need, as injuries and age are a concern on the current depth chart, but with the way the position is falling here, the Bengals can afford to wait.

Instead, Cincinnati grabs an elite tackle prospect in Taylor Lewan. While Lewan needs proper coaching after dominating at the collegiate level with an overreliance on his physical prowess, the Bengals have one of the best in the business in Paul Alexander.

Lewan starts right away and keeps Andrew Whitworth at left guard. For a team with few needs, that sort of first-round impact is quite the victory.

 

25. San Diego Chargers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

This is too easy.

San Diego had a hefty amount of trouble stopping the pass last year, but the top corner has somehow fallen into its lap late in the round.

Darqueze Dennard certainly has his detractors, but his physical coverage is a welcome addition to San Diego. Fresh off a playoff victory, the Chargers could not ask for a better scenario.

 

26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

A new franchise quarterback and a solid receiver to round out the offense in the first round seems like the best course of action for the Browns.

Kelvin Benjamin is certainly a risk thanks to drop concerns, but his tremendous upside and blend of size and speed (which may remind some of Megatron) are worth the gamble with a second pick in the round—especially when one remembers he will be lining up against soft coverage as defenses focus on Josh Gordon.

 

27. New Orleans Saints: Anthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA

Anthony Barr continues to tumble, with a notably low rating coming from ESPN Insider Todd McShay, who ranks him as the No. 28 prospect available (subscription required).

No one is happier about that than the New Orleans Saints and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

Barr is knocked for being a pretty one-dimensional prospect as a strict pass-rusher, but that is just fine in Ryan's amoeba defense. Ryan will get the most out of Barr no matter where he lines up.

 

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

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Fans who watch Brandin Cooks on tape should be immediately reminded of Steve Smith.

That is fitting. Cooks should be on the board here, and Smith is getting up there in age. The Carolina Panthers need an immediate contributor to help Cam Newton out but also a long-term replacement for Smith.

Mission accomplished.

 

29. New England Patriots: Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame

Two rookies and Julian Edelman were just enough to get it done in New England last year, but that will not prove successful in 2014.

Troy Niklas is a newcomer to first-round talk, but as NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah points out, his stock has been consistently on the rise for some time:

Niklas is a strong all-around prospect who fits well in New England with Tom Brady. While bigger names came off the board higher, Niklas is a strong move for the Patriots.

 

30. San Francisco 49ers: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

Jordan Matthews continues to fly under the radar as a viable first-round receiver, but fans will hear no complaints out of San Francisco about his tumble.

Matthews is a bigger receiver who absorbs most anything thrown his way, and he can be a reliable target across from a playmaker such as Michael Crabtree.

While he will not have the chance to blow away the league from a statistical standpoint, Matthews' addition keeps the 49ers in contention.

 

31. Denver Broncos: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Regardless of whether Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie makes a return next season, the Denver Broncos must do more to shore up the cornerback spot.

Justin Gilbert is a great way to do so this late in the round. As a prospect many consider worthy of a selection in the top half of the draft, Gilbert is an absolute steal here, and he upgrades a unit in need of help now and in the future.

 

32. Seattle Seahawks: Timmy JerniganDT, Florida State

With names such as Michael Bennett and Clinton McDonald headed to free agency, it is painfully obvious what the champs are thinking here.

Luckily for Seattle, Timmy Jernigan is still on the board and provides a versatile presence as a prospect who can fill in at multiple spots across the line in a variety of scenarios.

At the end of the first, Jernigan is a perfect scenario for the Seahawks.

 

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