2014 NFL Mock Draft: Ideal Homes for 1st Round's Most Talented Players

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IMarch 19, 2014

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01:  Jadeveon Clowney #7 of the South Carolina Gamecocks gets the crowd excited in the first half of their game against the Wisconsin Badgers at the Capital One Bowl on January 1, 2014 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The NFL offseason is moving at a whirlwind pace, and free agency will soon give way to the league's most anticipated offseason event, the 2014 NFL draft.

Various March signings have changed the complexion heading into spring, but there's still plenty to dissect ahead of May 8's first round. 

Below, I'll run down all 32 picks, highlighting the ideal landing spots for some of the top available talents.

*All free-agent signing info according to NFL.com. 

1. Houston Texans (2-14): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

The best player available in 2014 is without a doubt South Carolina pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney. His numbers and energy both declined during his junior season in 2013, but his freakish performance at the combine dropped jaws and helped boost his stock, per NFL.com's College Football 24/7:

There's little doubt that playing alongside J.J. Watt in Houston would be the ideal fit for Clowney, who could wreak havoc for the next decade or more.

The pressure of living up to the No. 1 overall pick would be massive, but Houston has the core in place to be successful right away under first-year head coach Bill O'Brien.

2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington (3-13)): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

St. Louis is incredibly close to becoming a playoff team, and adding a stud tackle such as Auburn's Greg Robinson would put the Rams over the top. Robinson could combine with Jake Long to form one of the league's top tackle tandems.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12): Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

Central Florida's Blake Bortles possesses the prototypical NFL frame and has solid mobility to go along with his big arm and toughness. 

The Jacksonville Jaguars struck out with Blaine Gabbert in 2011, but they can potentially redeem themselves this May.

4. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

The city of Cleveland is desperate for something to believe in, and Johnny Football would provide a spark for the downtrodden Browns franchise. The question marks surrounding his dedication aren't likely to go away anytime soon, but his upside is awfully tough to pass up. 

5. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Like the Jaguars and Browns, the Oakland Raiders are in need of a quarterback. With both Bortles and Manziel off the board in this scenario, they'll look to the future with Louisville's uber-accurate Teddy Bridgewater. 

6. Atlanta Falcons (4-12): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

The Atlanta Falcons could potentially target defensive end Khalil Mack at the No. 6 spot. But if they want to keep franchise quarterback Matt Ryan off his back, Texas A&M stud Jake Matthews is a no-brainer. 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 23: Former Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins runs the 40-yard dash during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 23, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Bucs have placed an added emphasis on defense since the hiring of head coach Lovie Smith and free agency. But come draft day, Clemson's Sammy Watkins is likely to be the guy.

Watkins is a burner who attacks the football at its highest point. Needless to say, he'll be an impact addition for Tampa Bay if it goes that route in Round 1. 

8. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

Matt Cassel signed a two-year deal to return to Minnesota, but he's hardly the long-term answer under center. That said, the Vikings could target Fresno State passer Derek Carr, who would be the best quarterback on the board in this scenario.

9: Buffalo Bills (6-10): Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

Buffalo would be the ideal landing spot for pass-rushing extraordinaire Khalil Mack, who played his college football in the same city. The Bills have a need at linebacker heading into the draft, and Mack's athleticism and ability to get to the quarterback would make him an excellent fit at No. 9. 

NFL media analyst Charles Davis believes Mack has surpassed UCLA's Anthony Barr as the top available linebacker, at least for now:

Mack is an outstanding prospect and seems to keep rising up draft boards the more teams study him. Anthony Barr was supposed to be the No. 1 outside linebacker available, but the consensus is Mack has surpassed him. Before it's all said and done, though, I think Barr, who apparently was very impressive at his pro day this week, gets back into his conversation because it's the nature of the process. It's a roller coaster, and the ride hasn't stopped for Barr or Mack.

Either way, the Bills could really use a linebacker in addition to some help on the offensive line and at wide receiver. 

10. Detroit Lions (7-9): Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State 

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 9:   Cornerback Justin Gilbert #4 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys runs downfield for a touchdown on the opening kickoff against the Kansas Jayhawks Novemeber 9, 2013 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Bret
Brett Deering/Getty Images

If the Lions want to compete for the NFC North crown and get back to the postseason in 2014, they'll need to shore up their porous secondary. Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert would be an ideal start.

Gilbert is not only explosive as a return man—scoring six touchdowns during his time with the Cowboysbut he's also a defensive playmaker, leading the Big 12 with seven picks a season ago.

11. Tennessee Titans (7-9): Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

It's no secret that the Titans desperately need a dangerous pass-rusher to get after the quarterback in 2014. UCLA's Anthony Barr is likely to be on the board at No. 11.

With Ray Horton taking over Tennessee's defense, Barr could thrive in a new-look 3-4 scheme. 

12. New York Giants (7-9): Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Offensive line woes cost the Giants dearly in 2013. By adding a talented protector in Michigan's Taylor Lewan, New York will be investing in its two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback Eli Manning. 

13. St. Louis Rams (7-9): Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

A big, physical wide receiver with superb hands, Texas A&M's Mike Evans is the second-best receiver out there behind Clemson's Sammy Watkins, and he would be a great pickup for the Rams.

St. Louis drafted Tavon Austin in the first round a year ago, but Evans is a different kind of receiver who can help the passing attack in ways Austin and others can't.

14. Chicago Bears (8-8): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

With Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson flexing their muscles in the NFC North, the Chicago Bears will need to be able to defend the pass in 2014 in order to emerge as playoff contenders. 

Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard is an ideal fit with Chicago at No. 14. A physical cornerback who can match up with any receiver, Dennard would help patch up the deficiencies in the secondary.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 25: Former Alabama defensive back Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix stretches during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Steelers defense is aging and looked slow at times last season. Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be a tremendous selection for Pittsburgh in the opening round, as his awareness and instincts make him a game changer on the back end.

16. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

There's a lot to love about Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and if he's available at No. 16 overall, the Dallas Cowboys would be hard-pressed to pass on him. 

In Big D, Donald would be able to provide a push up the middle and help spark the pass rush in the absence of DeMarcus Ware. 

17. Baltimore Ravens (8-8): Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

The Ravens need to bolster their offensive line, specifically the tackle spot. Notre Dame's Zack Martin would be an underrated but big-time addition for Baltimore.

Martin started 50 games at Notre Dame, and he boasts the lateral quickness and strong hands to fend off pass-rushers for years to come.

18. New York Jets (8-8): Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

The acquisition of Eric Decker in free agency was big, but Oregon State's Brandin Cooks brings speed and athleticism to the table. With Watkins and Evans off the board, Cooks is a safe bet at No. 18 to New York. 

19. Miami Dolphins (8-8): Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA 

Miami's offensive line needs have been well-documented this offseason, and with some big names already off the board, watch for the Dolphins to target UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo, who offers unrivaled versatility.

20. Arizona Cardinals (10-6): Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois

Arizona needs safety help, and Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward could provide it. Ward boasts excellent speed, versatility and ball skills the Cardinals could utilize right away. 

21. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1): Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

The Packers addressed their lackluster pass rush by signing veteran Julius Peppers in free agency. But Green Bay could still use some athleticism at outside linebacker to help contain the likes of Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson in the NFC.

Ohio State's Ryan Shazier would be the perfect pick to help the Packers in that area. 

22. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6): Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville 

LEXINGTON, KY - SEPTEMBER 14:  Calvin Pryor #25 of the Louisville Cardinals celebrates during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium on September 14, 2013 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Safety is a big need for Chip Kelly's Eagles this offseason, so keep an eye out for Louisville's Calvin Pryor, who's a leader on the field and a secondary star who can also help out in run defense. 

23. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5): Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

The Chiefs currently lack the offensive weapons to threaten the Denver Broncos and the rest of the AFC's top contenders. Naturally, LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. comes to mind at No. 23, as he would fill an obvious need for Kansas City. 

24. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5): Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

Missouri's Kony Ealy would be an excellent fit in Cincy. The Bengals could put his versatility and skill set to use in the absence of Michael Johnson, who bolted in free agency. 

25. San Diego Chargers (9-7): Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

San Diego has serious needs in the secondary and would be wise to target a cornerback in Round 1. TCU's Jason Verrett is one possible pick. Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller is another option, but the Chargers have got to love Verrett's instincts. 

26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis (11-5)): Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State


With Cleveland drafting a quarterback early, it could potentially address its offensive line concerns late in the round, selecting Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson with the Indianapolis Colts' pick. 

27. New Orleans Saints (11-5): Dee Ford, DE, Auburn

Auburn's Dee Ford is a nightmare for opposing offensive linemen, and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is surely well aware of that. The bottom line is that the New Orleans Saints need a pass-rusher, and Ford has the potential to become a force in the Big Easy.

28. Carolina Panthers (12-4): Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

With Steve Smith heading to Baltimore, the Carolina Panthers need to pick up another weapon for Cam Newton. Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews is one of several talented wide receivers sure to be on the board at No. 28. 

Matthews isn't a speed merchant, but his soft pair of hands and route-running skills make him a first-round talent. 

29. New England Patriots (12-4): Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame

Notre Dame's Louis Nix would be a brilliant in New England, where he could plug the middle and help the Patriots defense return to championship form. The Pats have already addressed their secondary through free agency and should next focus on stopping the run. 

30. San Francisco 49ers (12-4): Marqise Lee, WR, USC

USC's Marqise Lee wouldn't have to go very far if he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers this May. The Trojans wideout would fill a need for the NFC powerhouse and provide the play-making threat San Francisco has lacked in the past. 

31. Denver Broncos (13-3): Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

Signing Aqib Talib in free agency was a big move for Denver, but the Broncos shouldn't be content to stop there. If they want to win it all, their defense will have to hold up against the pass. Therefore, Ohio State's Bradley Roby would be a nice fit at No. 31. 

Roby could come in and make an immediate impact for Denver as well as add some depth in the secondary.

32. Seattle Seahawks (13-3): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin could turn out to be gamble for Seattle late in the first round.

At 6'5" and 240 pounds, Benjamin possesses an impressive frame that has drawn comparisons to Calvin Johnson. However, his hands can sometimes let him down, and unless he can catch the ball more consistently at the next level, his potential may never be fulfilled.

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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