2014 NFL Mock Draft: Picks Each Round 1 Team Should Make to Improve

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2014 NFL Mock Draft: Picks Each Round 1 Team Should Make to Improve
L.G. Patterson/Associated Press

The 2014 NFL draft is still over a month away, but there are some pretty obvious choices each team should make in the first round to instantly improve key weaknesses on their respective rosters.

Several key prospects have already had their pro days, and while scouts won't put too much into these workouts, they are a good way to separate two prospects that are closely graded. Some players have stood out at their pro days, while others have struggled.

Below is an updated mock draft for the entire first round, with each pick selected based on which prospects could help their respective teams the most.

 

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

Quarterback is the obvious need for the Houston Texans, especially now that the team has traded Matt Schaub to the Oakland Raiders (h/t ESPN's Adam Schefter).

There are three top-tier QB prospects in this draft, and the Texans can take one with the No. 1 overall pick. Given what's happened lately, Central Florida's Blake Bortles may very well be the pick. He has the size and mobility for the position, but he also has the intelligence to read defenses and avoid pressure in the pocket, making him worth the No. 1 overall pick.

 

2. St. Louis Rams: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

The St. Louis Rams have the luxury of two first-round picks in this year's draft, but they also have a tough decision with regard to the No. 2 overall pick. They have a big need in the secondary, but no corners or safeties are worth a pick this early.

Instead, the Rams might want to bring in another receiver. Tavon Austin has shown that he can be explosive, but the Rams lack a true No. 1 option on the outside. Clemson's Sammy Watkins has the size and top-end speed to be a terrific vertical threat for the Rams. Giving Sam Bradford another weapon could go a long way.

 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Much like the Texans, the Jacksonville Jaguars have an obvious need at quarterback. If they want to address it in the draft, they should take Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater.

Bridgewater appeared to be the top quarterback prospect at the beginning of the season, but with the emergence of Bortles, there no longer appears to be a clear No. 1. A shaky pro day didn't help either. According to Darin Gantt from Pro Football Talk, NFL Network's Mike Mayock had this to say about his performance. 

“Most quarterbacks have good pro days,” Mayock said. “Today, I thought it was very average at best.”

But a shaky pro day shouldn't hurt Bridgewater's draft stock too much given what he did during the season at Louisville. He still should be taken early in the draft.

 

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

After releasing both Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell, it's obvious that the Browns' new coaching staff is going to go in a different direction at quarterback. It's highly unlikely that holdover Brian Hoyer becomes the starter under center.

Instead, the Browns should take one of these quarterbacks in the draft. Despite being a controversial figure in college football, Johnny Manziel has proven that he's a terrific athlete who loves to compete. More importantly, he's shown that he can develop as a passer. He may be small, but Manziel has the tools to make plays at the next level.

 

5. Oakland Raiders: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Hal Yeager/Associated Press

Depending on how the first four picks go, the Oakland Raiders could go in a couple of different directions. But with a likely new starting quarterback in Schaub, they need to make sure he can stay upright while also getting help in the run game.

While at Auburn, Greg Robinson proved that he was arguably the best run blocker in this year's draft class. At 6'5'' and 332 pounds, Robinson has the size along with the balance to dominate his assignment, whether that's in the passing or running game.

 

6. Atlanta Falcons: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

I highly doubt that Jadeveon Clowney will be available with the No. 6 pick. But if we're going by biggest need, he'd make a terrific fit with the Atlanta Falcons, who would be ecstatic to pick him.

Clowney is a freakish athlete on the defensive line, showing of the combination of size, speed and strength to make plays in the backfield. He has the potential to be a dominant pass rusher, but he will also likely make a big impact in stopping the run. Given how much the Falcons struggled on defense last year, Clowney would give them a big lift.

 

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

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have needs on both sides of the ball, but one of the bigger problems for them right now is on the offensive line, as they could really use help at tackle.

If they wanted to find a long-term option at left tackle, Jake Matthews would be a terrific option. He's spent time at both left and right tackle, and he has terrific size at 6'5'' and 308 pounds. Matthews is a great athlete who would make a positive impact on either side of the offensive line.

 

8. Minnesota Vikings: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Without Jared Allen, the Minnesota Vikings are going to need help rushing the passer. They could take one with the No. 8 overall pick here, then focus on finding a quarterback in the second or third round.

Coming out of the Mid-American Conference, Khalil Mack has proven to be one of the most disruptive prospects in this year's class. Along with the athleticism to rush the passer, Mack is also a versatile defender who can both stop the run and drop back in coverage. The Vikings had one of the worst defenses in the league last year, but Mack could make them a lot better in 2014.

 

9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

EJ Manuel is coming off of a season where he struggled to stay healthy. If the Buffalo Bills want to keep him upright, they could draft one of the many talented offensive tackles in this draft.

With Robinson and Matthews gone, the Bills should consider Taylor Lewan of Michigan. Lewan is a monster at 6'7'' and 309 pounds, but he's also quick enough to stay in front of speedy and athletic pass rushers. He started 48 games at Michigan, so he should be able to make the transition to the pros without too much difficulty.

 

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

The Detroit Lions have a few positions that they need to address. One of the bigger concerns is finding a reliable wide receiver to play opposite of Calvin Johnson and give Matthew Stafford another reliable target.

Like Johnson, Evans is big, physical receiver. At 6'5'' and 231 pounds, Evans has the speed and size to be a legitimate threat on the outside or down the middle. More importantly, he could be another reliable threat in the end zone. Inside the 20-yard line, the receiving combination of Johnson, Evans and Joseph Fauria could give opponents nightmares.

 

11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

While the Tennessee Titans have a few solid players on defense, they do lack a solid outside linebacker to go along with Akeem Ayers. The Titans weren't bad at putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but adding another outside linebacker who can get in the backfield could be scary.

Coming out of UCLA, Anthony Barr looks to have all of the physical tools to be a dominant pass-rusher. However, he still has some work to do on his technique, and he might not be effective until he can become a more polished overall player.

 

12. New York Giants: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

There were a handful of problems for the New York Giants last year, but rushing the passer was one of the bigger ones. In order to fix that, the Giants could get another dominant presence with Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald.

Donald isn't the biggest guy on the inside of the defensive line at 6'1'' and 285 pounds. But he makes up for that by being one of the first players off of the snap while doing a great job getting underneath his opponent's pads. He'd make a great 3-technique defensive tackle who could do a nice job racking up the sacks.

 

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

Butch Dill/Associated Press

One of the most obvious needs for the St. Louis Rams is free safety, because Rodney McLeod isn't the answer.

Grabbing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be the smart move here, as he's this year's best prospect at safety. He has terrific range and does a good job reading opposing quarterbacks' eyes. He does a great job in pass coverage, but he also isn't afraid to go inside the box, making him the complete package that the Rams so badly need.

 

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

With how bad the Chicago Bears were in run defense last year, it's clear that they need help in the middle of their defense, especially now that Henry Melton is with the Dallas Cowboys.

Jernigan is the perfect piece to put on the defensive line and have him clog up running lanes. He does a terrific job creating separation against opposing offensive linemen, helping him eat up running backs in the backfield. A big game in the BCS National Championship helped raise his draft stock, but it's not hard to see why he's such an impressive prospect.

 

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

The Pittsburgh Steelers could go a few ways with this pick, but adding help in the secondary could go a long way for this defense. This draft's top cornerback is arguably Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, but there are plenty of talented defensive backs who could be first- or second-round selections.

Gilbert has separated himself from the rest, however, because of his excellent ball skills. His 4.37-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine helped confirm that he should be the first CB taken, and the Steelers would be getting a potential day-one starter.

 

16. Dallas Cowboys: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

With DeMarcus Ware gone to the Denver Broncos, the Cowboys need to find a player to replace his pass-rushing abilities in their 4-3 defense.

One of the more interesting prospects at defensive end is Missouri's Kony Ealy. He has a nice, long frame at 6'4'' and 273 pounds, yet he looks like he could get even bigger with some time in the weight room. He's fast off of the edge and has a variety of moves to get past offensive linemen, so he could rack up sacks in a hurry at the next level.

 

17. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville

Defensively, the Baltimore Ravens haven't looked the same since losing Ed Reed. They selected Matt Elam in last year's draft, but they could pair him with another big hitter in Louisville's Calvin Pryor to give the Ravens an even more intimidating defense.

Pryor was known for making huge hits for the Cardinals, but he also has terrific range to break up passes or force turnovers. He isn't afraid to make statements with his hits, and he could compliment Elam quite well in the secondary.

 

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

Regardless of who starts at quarterback next year for the New York Jets, they aren't going to be able to do much with the team's current selection of receivers.

That could change in a hurry if the Jets draft Odell Beckham Jr. out of LSU. He's not a big threat, but he's terrific with the ball in his hands after the catch and does a terrific job creating separation with his speed and agility. Beckham could be the go-to option on offense for Michael Vick or Geno Smith.

 

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

With Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin gone, the Miami Dolphins have to quickly rebuild their offensive line. Fortunately, they'll be able to likely find a day-one starter at offensive tackle with their first-round pick.

Zack Martin is one of the most technically sound and intelligent offensive tackles in this year's draft. While he doesn't have the longest arms, his aggressiveness in the trenches means that he should be fine at the next level, although he could likely play offensive guard and still be worth a first-round pick.

 

20. Arizona Cardinals: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

The biggest need for the Arizona Cardinals is probably offensive tackle. But with all of the blue-chip tackles likely gone, the Cardinals will have to find the best player available on their board.

Adding another cornerback could help this defense quite a bit in the passing game, and Darqueze Dennard looks like the ideal corner. He's a big corner who isn't afraid to play aggressive with opposing receivers. He could be great in press coverage to shut down targets.

 

21. Green Bay Packers: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers need help almost everywhere on defense, which means that general manager Ted Thompson can see how the first 20 picks play out before picking the top defensive player on his board.

If he's still available, it would be hard for Green Bay not to take C.J. Mosley, who is easily the best inside linebacker in this draft. He's an instinctive player with the athleticism to make huge plays in the backfield or simply rack up tackles for minimal gains. A.J. Hawk isn't the same player he used to be, but Mosley has the potential to replace him sooner, rather than later.

 

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

The Philadelphia Eagles allowed 289.8 yards per game through the air last year, the most in the NFL. One way to fix that is to bring in help in the secondary. Since Chip Kelly likes players with plenty of speed, he'd love to bring in a player like Bradley Roby.

Roby ran the 40-yard dash in just 4.39 seconds at the combine, but he seems even faster on the field. He does a great job changing direction and sticking with even the speediest of receivers, and he should be an instant asset as a nickel corner.

 

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

Alex Smith had a pretty good season with the Kansas City Chiefs last year, but he lacked weapons to throw to who weren't coming out of the backfield. Dwayne Bowe didn't look like the dominant receiver he used to be, while Donnie Avery didn't look like a No. 2 receiver.

The Chiefs don't have a go-to tight end in the passing game, but that could change if they took Eric Ebron. He's presents a frightening mismatch at 6'4'' and 250 pounds, running terrific routes and showing off an impressive catch radius.

 

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Surprisingly, the Cincinnati Bengals don't have a ton of holes, except perhaps at quarterback. If the Bengals are looking for long-term help on defense, they could consider bringing in another cornerback as Adam Jones begins to age.

Kyle Fuller has started to climb up draft boards after a solid combine. He has a nice frame that he could add some muscle to. Overall he has good ball skills, with the ability to react quickly when the ball is thrown or when receivers make their cuts. He might not be an instant starter, but he could develop quite nicely over a couple of seasons.

 

25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Defending the pass wasn't one of the San Diego Chargers' strengths last year, as they gave up 258.7 passing yards per game, ranking 29th in the NFL. With that in mind, their defense could get a big lift by adding another player in the secondary.

Despite his smaller size, Verrett has the speed and aggressive mentality to play corner in the NFL. His reaction time is surprising, and he does a great job making plays on the ball regardless of where he is on the field.

 

26. Cleveland Browns: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

If the Browns do end up drafting Manziel or another quarterback with their first pick, bringing in another weapon with their second selection would be a good way to make their offense much more exciting in 2014.

If he is still available here, the Browns could make a smart move by taking Marqise Lee. While at USC, Lee showed that he can pick up a ton of yards after the catch. He also knows how to throw defensive backs off guard before the pass with great route running and acceleration.

If Lee were to join potent receiving threats Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon, whoever plays QB next season for the Browns wouldn't be complaining about his weapons.

 

27. New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn

After hiring Rob Ryan as their defensive coordinator, the New Orleans Saints completely turned things around on defense last year. But the defense still isn't perfect, and they could use another player to help get to the quarterback.

Auburn's Dee Ford has continued to shoot up draft boards after a very impressive Senior Bowl, and his film backs up the hype. He isn't the most dominating prospect physically, but Ford has great burst and the ability to quickly accelerate off the snap. That skill can go a long way in his development as a pass rusher, which would make him a good fit in the Saints' defensive scheme.

 

28. Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Now that Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell are gone, Cam Newton doesn't have a lot of options to work with in the passing game unless the Panthers find some through the draft. Fortunately, they might be able to grab one that could be a major threat in the red zone.

Kelvin Benjamin is a massive receiver at 6'5'' and 240 pounds, making him a big mismatch inside the 20-yard line. He isn't the fastest player on the outside, but his size and ability to catch the ball at its highest point makes him a great possession receiver who could make a lot of big plays.

 

29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Offensively, the New England Patriots didn't look the same last year without two dominant tight ends. With Rob Gronkowski hurt and Aaron Hernandez in jail, the offense struggled to get going at times in 2013, but that could change this season.

By drafting Jace Amaro, the Patriots could have a deadly duo at the position once again, assuming that Gronk regains his health. Amaro thrives playing in the slot and uses his athleticism to make plenty of plays in the middle of the field, making him a great replacement for Hernandez.

 

30. San Francisco 49ers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

As the San Francisco 49ers try to keep up with the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West, they need to find more weapons to help negate Seattle's dominant secondary.

One player who could completely change the passing game for the 49ers is Oregon State's Brandin Cooks. He's a small prospect at just 5'10'' and 189 pounds, but he's usually the fastest player when he's on the field. His acceleration and top-end speed help him burn defensive backs coming out of the slot and his vision helps him break off huge plays after the catch.

 

31. Denver Broncos: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA

It appears that the Denver Broncos are going all in for another Super Bowl run in what could be Peyton Manning's final season. With their first-round pick, the Broncos could focus on adding more protection for Manning, as well as help in the running game.

UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo should be ready to be a day-one starter at offensive guard, as he's a great pass blocker who's very quick out of his stance. Xavier also makes up for his less than ideal length and strength with good footwork and athleticism.

 

32. Seattle Seahawks: Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame

After losing Red Bryant, the Seahawks may want to use the last pick of the first round on another player to replace him on the inside of the defensive line.

Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt has ideal size for a defensive lineman in a 4-3 scheme at 6'5'' and 304 pounds, but he also has the athleticism and versatility to do any number of things on defense. He is a physically gifted prospect with the upside to be a nightmare on the defensive line. Seattle may want to draft him and see if he can become just that.

 

 

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