2014 NFL Mock Draft: Smartest Pick for Each 1st-Round Team

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IMarch 25, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 21: Former Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles speaks to the media during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 21, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Free agency has brought no clarity to the NFL draft. In fact, it's made everything a little cloudier. Many teams have wisely brought in veterans who are capable of filling holes at positions of need, but they aren't necessarily quality long-term options.

That gives teams flexibility in the draft, and flexibility is a mocker's nightmare. 

For instance, at the top of the draft, the Houston Texans signed former Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. With that move, the Texans have a veteran with ample starting experience who isn't coming off a disastrous season with the team, as Matt Schaub was. 

I don't think anyone expects Fitzpatrick to come in and be a long-term starter, but there are worse options for a stopgap signal-caller. Fitzpatrick makes it easier for the Texans to pass on a quarterback with the No. 1 overall selection if they aren't sold on one. 

Of course, if they are sold on a quarterback, Fitzpatrick's addition also does nothing to keep the Texans from drafting one. 

I say all of this to help highlight the nearly infinite directions this first round can go. Here is one direction I see it going. 


Langford's 2014 NFL Mock Draft

1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida 

When it's all said and done, I think the Texans still go with a quarterback. They will have their pick of any QB in this class and will be able to find enough positives in one of them to take him with this lofty selection. 

Blake Bortles is going to be that guy. Bortles is not the most pro-ready quarterback in this class, but he has the highest ceiling. That potential will be too much for the Texans to pass on. 

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

Jadeveon Clowney is a rare talent, and he would fit right in with the Rams' style of defense. Of course, the Rams don't necessarily need Clowney, as they already have Chris Long and Robert Quinn.

I'm sure this will lead to the Rams exploring trading this pick, but they will eventually find the best value in drafting Clowney and then trading 28-year-old Long.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Plain and simple, Greg Robinson is the best player available here. The Jacksonville Jaguars definitely need to be on the lookout for their quarterback of the future, but the team must make the right decision on that player. 

Greg Robinson is a far safer selection, and he has the potential to be a dominant starter in the NFL for over a decade. 

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

This pick is too exciting for the Cleveland Browns to pass on. With wide receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron, the Browns have solid playmakers on offense. They just need a quarterback who is a playmaker to bring it all together. 

Johnny Manziel fits that mold. He's got question marks regarding his size and style of play, but there's no denying the potential excitement of this pairing. 

5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

The Raiders have given themselves ultimate freedom with this pick. It would be wise for Oakland to go defense here, but there isn't a great fit. The Raiders are looking to get their pass rush from 4-3 ends and not 3-4 linebackers. 

Sammy Watkins is a good fit and a good value. The Raiders have a solid receiving corps, but they lack a dominant talent at the position. Watkins has the athleticism and ball skills to be a top-end No. 1 receiver. 

6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

With signs pointing to the Atlanta Falcons moving to a 3-4, Khalil Mack is now a perfect fit. Mack is a well-rounded linebacker, but it is his ability to get to the quarterback that really has his value soaring. 

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

After an aggressive showing in free agency, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are another team that has a lot of flexibility. In instances like this, the best strategy is to take the best player available. 

Jake Matthews is a wonderful tackle with the ability to keep heat off a passer's blindside for years to come. 

8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Teddy Bridgewater's draft stock is tough to gauge. He was widely mocked as the No. 1 overall selection as the college season was winding down, but since then, his stock appears to be sinking. 

The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero explains that Bridgewater left a lot to be desired at his pro day: 

Minnesota needs its quarterback of the future. It looked like the Vikings wouldn't have a crack at the top three in this class, but they won't hesitate to grab Bridgewater.  

9. Buffalo Bills: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

The Buffalo Bills' developing defense needs athleticism on the edge. Anthony Barr will bring that.

The converted running back needs seasoning to be a complete linebacker, but he has the athleticism to excel as an edge-rusher right off the bat.  

10. Detroit Lions: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

C.J. Mosley would excel from Day 1 if drafted by the Lions. Mosley is an athletic and heady player with the ability to make an impact in all phases of the game. With the strong defensive line of the Lions, a middle linebacker with Mosley's ability will be free to make plays all over the field.

11. Tennessee Titans: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan 

The Titans need help on the edge of their offensive line. Taylor Lewan is a good athlete who will solidify the pass protection. 

12. New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

With size, athleticism and hands, Eric Ebron looks to continue the ascension on NFL stat sheets from tight ends. He can make plays all over the field, including down the field. 

That last part is vital to the Giants. New York needs someone to occupy the attention of opposing safeties. 

Not only would this help them attack the seam, but it would also keep double coverage off receivers on the outside.

13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

The Rams need more offensive weapons. Mike Evans would pair nicely at wide receiver with last year's first-round selection, Tavon Austin

Evans is not the draft's most explosive receiver, but he has solid athleticism and good size. He will command extra attention on the outside, which will help open things up on the inside for Austin. 

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

Timmy Jernigan is is not the kind of player who will ever fill up a stat sheet. He has the ability to get into the backfield, but, more consistently, he will be able to clog up running lanes and eat up blockers. 

The Bears need lots of help on defense. Jernigan would be a strong piece to build around. 

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

Darqueze Dennard fits the mold at corner for the Steelers. He has good size and is a physical player. Corner is not the biggest need for Pittsburgh, but with Ike Taylor about to turn 34, the Steelers need more depth at the position.

16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville

In need of lots of defensive help, the Cowboys should be on the lookout for several defensive positions. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald will certainly be in play here, but Calvin Pryor can't be counted out.

The Cowboys must improve their pass defense, and as NFL.com's Gil Brandt points out, via Bleacher Report's Zach Kruse, Pryor has skills that can make a big impact:


17. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

The Ravens are in trouble along the offensive line. That group was awful last season, and starting right tackle Michael Oher signed with Tennessee

Zack Martin will improve things among Baltimore's offensive front five. The only question is where. Martin may not have the length to handle tackle, but he would be able to excel as a guard.

NFL Network's Mike Mayock thinks he'll be able to succeed anywhere:  

18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

The New York Jets signed wide receiver Eric Decker to give the team a needed playmaker. New York can't settle with just that signing, however. 

The speedy Odell Beckham Jr. would be able to stretch the field, which would allow him to make big plays and create more space for receivers underneath.

19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

Miami signed tackle Branden Albert to help remake the offensive line, but the Dolphins still have work to do on that front. 

There are serious question marks surrounding Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio, as highlighted by Pro Football Talk: 

Assuming Miami isn't one of the teams that failed him, he is a strong fit. He has the potential to be a strong tackle for years to come, and if that doesn't work out, he would excel at guard. 

20. Arizona Cardinals: Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt

In need of reinforcements along the defensive line, the Cardinals will be ecstatic if the explosive Aaron Donald is still on the board. 

Donald has the athleticism and size to excel as an end in a 3-4 line. 

21. Green Bay Packers: Louis Nix III, Notre Dame

Louis Nix III is recovering from knee surgery, but the massive defensive lineman is doing what he can to ease concerns prior to the draft.

As College Football 24/7 notes, he's slimmed down in preparation for the draft:

Of course, we also get a glimpse of Nix's personality in that tweet. If beat writers controlled the draft, Nix would go No. 1. They, of course, do not run the draft, and Nix will stay on the board until the Packers pluck him off to add strength and size to their defensive line. 

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

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a wonderful athlete. He has range and decent ball skills. His running game needs improvement, but the Eagles really need him in pass defense, as they finished last in the NFL in pass defense last season.

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

Marqise Lee is a strong fit for the Chiefs. He has the ball skills to be a threat all over the field, and he will require extra defensive attention when he goes deep. 

The Chiefs badly need this. They relied far too much on running back Jamaal Charles last season, and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe needs someone to take the attention off him. 

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Terence Newman had a great season for the Bengals last season. That is especially impressive considering he is 35. Age is going to catch up to him at some point, though, and the Bengals need to be prepared. 

Justin Gilbert is a strong value here, and he has a big upside. 

25. San Diego Chargers: Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida

The Chargers must bring in more players who can play pass defense. Marcus Roberson is a physical corner with good size. He will be an instant upgrade in San Diego. 

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

If the draft plays out like this, the Browns will have an explosive offense. I have them taking Manziel at No. 4, and then giving him Kelvin Benjamin to grow with. Benjamin will also take defensive attention off Gordon. 

27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

Signing safety Jairus Byrd is a great boost to the Saints defense, but this team must get more athletic in the front seven.  

Ryan Shazier would give the Saints that athletic boost, and he would help solidify the Saints rush defense.

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

Steve Smith is gone from Carolina, and this team needed an upgrade in the passing game when Smith was on the roster. 

Brandin Cooks is small, but he's explosive and strong and has wonderful ball skills. He has a lot in common with Smith. The Panthers can draft him to fill Smith's role.

29. New England Patriots: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Jason Verrett arguably has the best cover skills in this draft. He doesn't have the best size, though, and his lack of length will keep him on the board until the tail end of the first round.

That will be just fine with the Patriots. Although New England signed Darrelle Revis, this team needs more cover men. 

30. San Francisco 49ers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State

When Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree were on the field together for the 49ers last season, the offense was radically more potent.

The 49ers need more depth at receiver, which will help keep the offense from experiencing rough patches when it deals with injuries. Also, having three solid wide receivers will help spread out the field and make Colin Kaepernick's scrambling ability even more lethal. 

31. Denver Broncos: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

As they should, the Broncos remain firmly in win-now mode. Targeting a player who is ready to make an instant impact is a must with this pick.

Kony Ealy needs lots of refinement, but his natural athleticism will make him a threat in the pass rush right off the bat.

32. Seattle Seahawks: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

If Pete Carroll can coax the best out of Ra'Shede Hageman, as he has with so many other players, this will be the steal of the draft.

Hageman is an excellent athlete with light college production. Considering the Seahawks need reinforcements in the defensive trenches, this is an easy pick for the defending champs.


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