2014 NFL Mock Draft: Essential Selections for Every 1st-Round GM

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIMarch 15, 2014

COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 30:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies scrambles as defensive lineman Harold Brantley #90 of the Missouri Tigers chases during the game on November 30, 2013 in Columbia, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The whirlwind of free-agent moves has somewhat reshaped team's priorities heading into the NFL draft. Holes have been created and filled by the seemingly nonstop player movement.

Most of the teams at the top of the draft still have the same issues to address. It could be argued that four of the first five picks could be quarterbacks. Instability under center seems to be a consistent trait with most of the league's biggest losers.

The Houston Texans were the biggest example in 2013. They will set the tone for the draft with the first selection. There is no consensus on whom they will draft, however. If you scan mock drafts online, you can find as many as four different players who are projected to go first overall.

Here's my take on that all-important pick and the rest of the essential selections for general managers in the first round.

1. Houston Texans: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 30:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies scrambles as defensive lineman Markus Golden #33 of the Missouri Tigers persues during the game on November 30, 2013 in Columbia, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Im
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

NFL.com's Bryan Fischer spoke to NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell about the Texans' need at quarterback and the prospects the team might target with the top pick.

Cosell doesn't see Manziel as a player who fits into new head coach Bill O'Brien's mold for a guy under center:

I could be dead wrong, but I don't think (Bill O'Brien) would see Johnny Manziel as his kind of quarterback. That would be my sense. It doesn't make him right or wrong, it's just his worldview. Every offensive coach has a worldview of what he wants his quarterback to look like. I don't think Johnny Manziel would be his guy.

That might be true, but the business of football often trumps a coach's worldview. Manziel is a talented player with great upside and marketability.

Houston shouldn't pass on him.

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

Most mocks have the Rams taking Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson here or Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews. The Rams have a need at that position, but they also need a playmaker on offense.

Watkins is the most explosive offensive player in the draft. St. Louis can draft a tackle with the 13th pick. He is the best selection here.

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

Clowney probably won't fall below this spot—even if the Jaguars trade the pick away. Chances are that a few teams will be willing to trade up to take him. The Atlanta Falcons should be one of them.

His upside as a pass-rusher is tremendous. The Jags need a franchise quarterback, but the team's recent re-signing of Chad Henne suggests it might be willing to take a quarterback later in the draft it can develop.

4. Cleveland Browns: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Having dumped both Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell, the Browns are in position to sign a veteran quarterback and draft a rookie. The veteran whom the team signs probably depends on what round it plans to select its young quarterback.

Everyone knows Michael Vick wants to start in 2014. But if the Browns take a quarterback like Bridgewater with the No. 4 pick, there will be pressure for him to play sooner rather than later.

Taking him could mean Josh Freeman or Shaun Hill lands in Cleveland.

5. Oakland Raiders: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Terrelle Pryor deserves another chance to prove he can be the team's quarterback. Blake Bortles is still on the board, but taking Robinson to anchor the line would help the team more than anything.

Oakland would be wise to draft a developmental quarterback late.

6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, DE, Buffalo

Otto Kitsinger/Associated Press

If the Falcons don't trade up to get Clowney, they could still find a beastly pass-rusher in Mack. After a stellar career at Buffalo, Mack's skills have been the subject of much conversation since the predraft process began.

NFL.com's Mike Mayock spoke to Vikings.com about Mack in comparison to Clowney: "You talk about a kid like (Jadeveon) Clowney, who’s just got superhuman abilities, versus this kid [Mack], and if I had a choice between the two, I think I’m taking Mack."

From an intangible standpoint, no one seems to doubt Mack's motor or his ability to perform in the NFL.

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

After signing free-agent quarterback Josh McCown, the Bucs are set at the game's most important position. The next thing for the team to do is add players to protect him or Mike Glennon, if he wins the starting job.

Matthews isn't far behind Robinson as offensive line prospects are concerned. Taking him here would be the best way for the Bucs to protect their investments.

8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

The Vikings don't have to draft a quarterback here. The team has re-signed Matt Cassel, who played very well down the stretch in 2013. However, with Bortles still available, it would be crazy to pass on such a promising prospect.

In the NFC North, the Vikes need to ensure they can compete through the air with the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.

9. Buffalo Bills: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

The Bills need a big wide receiver who can establish some chemistry with quarterback EJ Manuel. Evans is huge at 6'5" and is great at high-pointing the ball.

He could instantly become a top-notch red-zone threat.

10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Detroit has a need at corner, and Gilbert is the best player at the position in the draft. Don't believe it? Just ask him. After impressing at his pro-day workout, he said this, per Kyle Meinke of MLive.com: "I think I'm the best corner in the draft. I worked hard to be in the position I'm in, and I'm not going to let anyone take that from me."

If the Lions have a chance to grab a potential shutdown corner, they would be wise to it.

11. Tennessee Titans: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

In an effort to revive their running game and physicality upfront, the Titans could target Lewan. He's big, physical and nasty. Players like him are essential in establishing the power-run style that made the Titans tough.


12. New York Giants: Anthony Barr, OLB/DE, Alabama

The Giants need to get younger on defense—especially in the front seven. 

Barr has great versatility. He could be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, but in New York, he'd likely be a speed-rushing defensive end. With Justin Tuck departing, the Giants have room and a need for a playmaker on the defensive line.

13. St. Louis Rams: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

The Rams would probably prefer Robinson or Matthews, but their need for a WR is bigger than the hole at offensive tackle.

Still, Martin is an excellent prospect who could develop nicely in Jeff Fisher's grinding, physical culture. The Rams' power-running style served them well late in the season. Expect to see it reappear in 2014.

14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

Chicago's run defense was the worst in the NFL in 2013. The team still hasn't re-signed Henry Melton to help solidify the middle of the defensive line.

Even if he returns, there will be a need for depth. Jernigan could start alongside Melton or replace him. He's a potential game-changer as it pertains to stopping the run.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Pittsburgh is another team in need of a youth injection. That's especially the case in the secondary. Dennard is right on Gilbert's heels in the cornerback rankings.

He's a bit more physical, which probably suits the Steelers' style better.

16. Dallas Cowboys: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

It's hard to determine which defense was worse in 2013—the Bears or the Cowboys. Needless to say, Dallas needs to concentrate on shoring up its defense in the draft.

DeMarcus Ware was released and signed with the Denver Broncos. Ealy is a big, athletic end who can become a force against the pass and run.

17. Baltimore Ravens: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

The Ravens need depth at receiver. The team desperately missed Anquan Boldin in 2013. In order for Torrey Smith to get opportunities to burn corners on the outside again, he needs another receiver who is capable of garnering the defense's attention.

Lee's game-breaking speed could be the answer.

18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Perhaps the best gift that the Jets front office could give Geno Smith is a pass-catching tight end. In the 2014 NFL draft, Ebron is the best.

He has excellent speed (4.60 40-yard dash), good size at 6'4", 250 pounds and great hands. He could become an instant weapon in the offense.

19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama 

Ryan Tannehill was sacked 58 times in 2013. Thus, the Dolphins have to address their offensive line. Kouandjio may be a raw talent, but at 20 years old, his upside is so impressive, the Fins have to take him.

20. Arizona Cardinals: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA

Arizona's offense has to catch up with its defense. With weapons in the passing game in place for Carson Palmer, strengthening the offensive line is a smart way to improve the attack.

Su'a-Filo is a power presence in the trenches. He could primarily help with the run, but he'll also stuff inside pass-rushers.

21. Green Bay Packers: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas A&M

Replacing Jermichael Finley's pass-catching prowess should be near the top of the Packers' priority list. Amaro is just under Ebron as tight ends go in this draft. 

He has excellent intangibles and good hands. Aaron Rodgers will be happy to have another weapon.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, S, Alabama

The Eagles defense is the team's weakest link. With the fast pace of the offense, it's essential for the defense to be capable and deep. 

Clinton Dix is an instant starter for just about any team in the NFL with a void at safety. His football IQ and instincts are off the charts. He has a good chance to be the top defensive rookie in 2014.

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

The Chiefs' passing game is built on dink-and-dunk throws. In that scheme, it's essential for the team to have players who can pick up yards after the catch.

Beckham Jr. is one of the quickest receivers in the draft. He'd fit in nicely in KC.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Jim Cowsert/Associated Press

The Bengals roster doesn't have many holes, but the team could stand to add depth and youth to the secondary.

Verrett is a tough and physically gifted performer who will battle receivers on intermediate routes and stay with them deep. He could push for a starting position in Cincinnati.

25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

After surrendering 4.6 yards per carry in 2013, the Bolts should look to add some beef on the defensive line. At 6'2", 331 pounds, Nix has the bulk to clog running lanes.

In a draft with a good number of run-stuffers, Nix holds his own.

26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): David Yankey, OG, Stanford

Having tabbed their quarterback of the present and future with the first pick, the Browns can begin to add another inside presence on the offensive line.

Center Alex Mack may not return to the team. If that's the case, a versatile player like Yankey could step in at guard or start at center if he picks up the position.

27. New Orleans Saints: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

The Saints desperately missed Jermon Bushrod last season. Drew Brees was sacked 37 times and looked less confident in the pocket than he had in previous seasons.

Moses will take some time to develop, but he has great size (6'6", 335 pounds) and upside. The Saints have been great at developing offensive linemen. They could get the most out of him.

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

The Panthers released Steve Smith and are rumored to be interested in Hakeem Nicks, per Ralph Vacciano of The New York Daily News. Even if the team tabs Nix, the Panthers still need to get younger and faster at WR.

Cooks is physically similar to Smith at 5'10", 185 pounds. He possesses big-time speed and could help the Panthers out of the slot and on special teams.

29. New England Patriots: Aaron Donald, DT, Florida State

With Vince Wilfork asking to be released, per the NFL Network (h/t Ben Volin of The Boston Globe), the Pats might wind up having a hole to fill at defensive tackle. 

Donald has a great motor and strength. At 6'1", he is a bit short for some teams, but he has the heart and athleticism to overcome the stigma. Whether it's alongside Wilfork or as his replacement, Donald could help the Pats immediately.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

With Boldin aging, the 49ers will soon need another wide receiver to pair with Michael Crabtree. Benjamin's 6'5", 240-pound frame is rare at the position.

His ability to elevate—as he did for the game-winning catch in the national championship game—makes him an excellent target for Colin Kaepernick in the red zone.

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

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

The Broncos have been active during the offseason. With word that Peyton Manning is cleared to return in 2014, the team is in a win-now mode. Denver signed Ware, safety T.J. Ward, cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive back Marquice Cole.

The second and third levels of the defense will have a new look.

Tuitt is the type of player who can help solidify the defensive front and add depth. He has great potential and could benefit greatly from the attention paid to Von Miller and Ware.

32. Seattle Seahawks: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington

Giving Russell Wilson a pass-catching tight end would make the Seahawks offense even more deadly than it already is. The team could sign former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, but Finley's injury history means the team should still add depth.

Wilson's ability to roll out and find receivers downfield would be even more effective with a big target like Seferian-Jenkins.

All NFL stat references per Pro Football Reference. Combine results courtesy of NFL.com.

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