2014 NFL Mock Draft: Complete 1st-Round Picks with Trade Projections
The first two weeks of the NFL free-agency signing period are a whirling dervish of activity. Hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts are thrown to free agents in hopes of them being the missing pieces to the puzzle.
However, for all the help that a team can get through free agency, smart teams understand championship franchises are built through the draft. Drafting represents an imperfect science. Every year exceptional college football players get into the NFL and fall flat on their faces.
That makes the job of an NFL personnel staff all the more challenging. It is one thing to examine a player and determine what he can do. That is not the hard part.
The hard part is ascertaining not only if the player is a good fit for the team, but if he will continue to get better in the league. It is usually in one of these two areas that the disconnect takes place and players fail.
With that said, it is high time for a new first-round projection—and this time with a twist. It is a given that in the first round there will be trades. Predicting those trades poses a challenge. However, this projection is going to include three hypothetical trades that benefit all teams involved.
With this draft class, trades might be more difficult to come by than in the past. Nevertheless, there will be teams that fall hard for prospects and will have to trade up and get them.
1. Houston Texans
The Pick: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
For better or worse, it sure feels like the Houston Texans are willing to draft UCF quarterback Blake Bortles No. 1 overall in the draft. Just let that soak in a moment. The good news is that this Texans team has lots of talent on offense. They also have a quarterback in Case Keenum who has some starting experience if needed.
The problem is with so many weapons on offense and a talented young quarterback like Keenum on the roster, why add a rookie into the mix? Bortles is an interesting talent, but is he worth the top pick? That's up for debate. However, it is clear that if the Texans think they do not possess a signal-caller who can take this team to the next level, they must draft one.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)
The Pick: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
If the Texans take a quarterback, all eyes will fall on the St. Louis Rams and their pick. It is a virtual certainty that teams are going to come calling with trade offers. Some teams will want South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, while others might want to get the next best quarterback. If the offer is right, this could be the spot for the first trade of the round.
However, in this scenario, the Rams opt to sit tight. Even after getting offensive lineman Rodger Saffold back under contract, right tackle is a glaring need. Quarterback Sam Bradford was sacked 15 times in just seven games in 2013. He needs someone like auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, who is a massive athlete with an impressive skill set.
He is a punishing run-blocking tackle who can drive defenders well downfield. While somewhat untested as a pass protector, Robinson's athleticism and length lead one to think he can be great at that sooner rather than later.
3. Atlanta Falcons (from Jacksonville)
The Pick: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
There's no secret that with the Atlanta Falcons' transition to a 3-4 defense, getting South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney makes sense. He could be dominant as a 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebacker.
However, it is difficult to imagine a scenario where he slips to the Falcons at their original selection in the first round at No. 6. That means they broker a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars to go up and get their guy. The Falcons get up to No. 3, while the Jaguars slide back to No. 6 in hopes that a quarterback or pass-rusher will be there waiting for them.
The Falcons have had an aggressive free agency to this point, so it only makes sense that they carry that into the draft. Clowney's combination of size and explosion makes him a perfect candidate to play the strong-side outside linebacker spot in a 3-4 defense.
4. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
To be honest, trying to forecast what the Cleveland Browns might do with their first-round pick is sort of like trying to herd cats. Logic says their defense is stout and their skill players are solid, so they should pursue a quarterback. However, looking back at 2013, quarterback Brian Hoyer wasn't terrible before he was hurt, so do you spend this pick on a rookie signal-caller or strictly go best player available?
If the Browns opt to not draft Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, they should have their pick of some other excellent players, as well as multiple trade options. However, for this scenario, the Browns opt for the lightning in a bottle that is Manziel.
The positive aspects of his game are tremendous. Whether it's his flair for the dramatic or his explosive athletic ability, Johnny Football is a walking highlight reel. It will be up to the right coach to put him in the right system that accentuates his strengths and keeps his flaws in check. If the Browns can do that, he will have plenty of weapons around him to succeed.
5. Oakland Raiders
The Pick: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
It seems that every season the Oakland Raiders give us plenty to scratch our heads about. This offseason, they took their wheelbarrow of cash and threw most of it at aging veteran players. It was a nice stopgap measure for a team that needs to win now; however, that puts the pressure on these next two drafts. The Raiders must get tremendous return on their investment here for when those vets are gone.
This means the Raiders have to go with the best player available regardless of position. And that is Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. In fact, there might not be an offensive player in this draft, including the quarterbacks, who will impact his team more in his first year than Watkins will.
He is everything you want in a wide receiver. He's long without being bulky and deceptively fast. He plays with superb concentration and works hard for yards after the catch. There are several guys in Oakland who fit the WR2 and WR3 roles, but the team is missing real elite talent. Watkins would definitely change that.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Atlanta)
The Pick: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The gamble pays off for the Jacksonville Jaguars in this hypothetical scenario. After moving back three slots (to get additional picks), the quarterback who can help them most is still sitting there. Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater is a naturally gifted quarterback with a very high football IQ.
One thing that stands out is how easy the game comes to him. He rarely looks panicked, and even when he is placed under pressure, he shows poise.
Bridgewater also processes information very quickly and has the confidence to make adjustments and decisions on the fly without putting his teammates in positions to have to bail him out. While he isn't on the same level coming out of college that a guy like Andrew Luck was, there is just so much to love about his game. It's hard to imagine the Jaguars passing on him.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Sometimes a pick is less about being flashy and more about being smart. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selecting Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews here isn't the most exciting pick, but it is very shrewd. Not only does he fill a need, but he also represents the player who could come in and help this team the soonest.
Taking it a step further, Matthews might be the most complete offensive tackle in this draft. He is both a punishing run-blocker as well as a sound technician in pass protection.
If the Buccaneers decide to be a little more daring with this selection, a guy like Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack to pair up opposite Lavonte David would definitely qualify.
8. Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
It is an unfortunate fact that a player as talented as running back Adrian Peterson has had to play on a team so underwhelming at quarterback. Peterson’s window is slowly closing to be a winning running back and not just a successful one. This is the year the Minnesota Vikings finally get him a quarterback.
Fresno State’s Derek Carr might be the most complete quarterback in the draft. He easily has the best arm and makes all the throws with ease. His athleticism is underrated, and he shows high football acumen.
Of all the top quarterbacks in this draft, Carr appears to be getting the least amount of positive press. The Vikings would be lucky to get him as the fourth quarterback taken.
9. Buffalo Bills
The Pick: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Buffalo Bills are putting together a very talented offensive unit. One thing they do lack is a big target in the passing game for quarterback EJ Manuel. The wide receivers are talented, but can a team ever have enough weapons?
With no need that seems more glaring than another, the Bills go for Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans. His 6'5" size and catch radius are tremendous and would give Manuel a viable red-zone threat. With the top two tackles off the board, he would represent the best value at this pick. Evans is much more than just a big target; he has a very nice route tree and decent polish to his game.
10. Detroit Lions
The Pick: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
Sometimes, when your team needs don’t line up perfectly with the value, it is best not to reach. The Detroit Lions need a free safety over anything else at this point, but at No. 10, every safety in this draft would feel like a reach.
Instead the Lions go with the best player available and select Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. He could likely plug in opposite DeAndre Levy on the strong side. And in passing situations, he could line up opposite Ziggy Ansah in sub-packages and rush the passer.
11. Tennessee Titans
The Pick: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
With no quarterback on the board for the Tennessee Titans to take here, they turn their attention to the defensive secondary. After the team lost Alterraun Verner, cornerback is a principal need. Fortunately for the Titans, the top cornerback remains on the board.
Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert is the most physically imposing cornerback in the draft. His length and speed are elite by any standard. His strength is in off-man coverage where he can shadow the opposition's best player.
12. New York Giants
The Pick: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
The New York Giants are a difficult team to scout. Head coach Tom Coughlin loves to stockpile guys who can play along the defensive front. Defensive tackle is a real possibility here, but it is hard to pass up a talent like UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr.
He would have an immediate impact as a starting linebacker next to Jon Beason in the middle. Barr could also slide up into a hybrid defensive end role on passing downs and rush the quarterback. The Giants can address defensive tackle later on and take the best player on the board here.
13. St. Louis Rams
The Pick: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
With their second selection in the first round, the St. Louis Rams turn to the defense. Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be a great selection for them at this point. He is a downhill type of player who covers a great deal of ground in a hurry. And when he gets there, he can deliver a blow.
If the Rams choose not to go with a safety, they could opt for a defensive tackle to pair up inside with Michael Brockers or a linebacker to add a more physical presence to the defense. However, in the final analysis, Clinton-Dix makes the most sense.
14. Chicago Bears
The Pick: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Chicago Bears can go in two directions with this pick. They could choose a defensive tackle to pair up with Stephen Paea or a cornerback to mentor under Charles Tillman. Either pick would be valuable to this defense.
For this scenario, cornerback gets the nod. Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard is a productive and physical CB. He’d be a great fit for the Bears and a long-term solution at the position. Dennard also represents the best chance to get on the field early between cornerback and defensive tackle.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Pittsburgh)
The Pick: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Here the Philadelphia Eagles make a move up to get a playmaker on defense. Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley is talented enough to play any linebacker spot in the 3-4 defense and would give the Eagles plenty of flexibility on defense. If they pass on Mosley here, they could instead look to add another safety.
One thing that is fairly certain is that regardless of position, the Eagles are going to try and add a playmaker on defense. Mosley can impact the game in multiple ways, which is why they trade up to land him.
16. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
After losing one of their top defensive players, it is imperative that the Dallas Cowboys find a suitable replacement. Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy has one of the best all-around games of any defensive lineman in the draft. He is adept at coming off the edge as a pass-rush specialist and is big and strong enough to set the edge against the run.
There is always a chance that the Cowboys add an interior player like Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald with this pick. However, getting someone to replace defensive end Demarcus Ware is too important to pass on.
17. Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Baltimore Ravens have actively engaged in free agency. This affords them a lot of flexibility with their first-round pick. There are no significant needs at this point, so the Ravens can instead look to the top player on their board.
At No. 17, Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan would be a steal. He is a physical, athletic tackle with a real nasty streak. He could be the starter on the right side from Day 1 and hopefully put some spark back in the run game.
18. New York Jets
The Pick: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
If the New York Jets wish to be taken seriously on offense, they must give their starting quarterback some weapons. North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron is a fabulous pass-catcher and a total matchup nightmare. His combination of size and speed with wide receiver hands would endear him to whomever starts at quarterback for the Jets very quickly.
If the Jets continue to start quarterback Geno Smith, he will need a reliable player who can make plays all over the field. Ebron can line up tight on the line of scrimmage where his speed overwhelms linebackers. He can also split out wide where his size advantage is too much for safeties and cornerbacks.
19. Miami Dolphins
The Pick: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
It took until the 19th pick for a defensive tackle to finally come off the board. The Miami Dolphins take Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald to provide them an explosive and athletic presence next to Randy Starks on the defensive interior.
Donald’s ability to penetrate would be huge for defensive ends Cameron Wake and Dion Jordan. It would be impossible for opposing offensive lines to double-team them all, and that means more pressure on the quarterback.
20. Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
There are literally a half-dozen positions you could mock to the Arizona Cardinals at this point that make sense. However, looking over the depth chart, it seems as if adding a pass-rushing outside linebacker would make the most sense.
Auburn’s Dee Ford is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker with elite explosion and speed. He is one of the most dynamic defensive players in the draft with a great first step and a motor that never stops. The Cardinals defense was great last year, and adding Ford would make it downright scary.
21. Green Bay Packers
The Pick: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Green Bay Packers are another team that could go in multiple directions with this pick. However, looking at the depth chart, adding a legitimate free safety needs to be near the top. Louisville’s Calvin Pryor has all the trappings of a top free safety. He has terrific range and wreak an awful lot of havoc in that range. He flows well in coverage and can be counted on to fill on run plays as well.
If Green Bay doesn't deem safety to be a high enough need, look for a tight end or perhaps a linebacker at this pick instead. Someone like Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro would be a great fit in the Packers offense.
22. Pittsburgh Steelers (from Philadelphia)
The Pick: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Pittsburgh slides back a few spots in the first round, but still fills a significant need. Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller fits the bill almost perfectly for what the Steelers look for in a cornerback. The Hokie has nice size and deceptive field speed. He is solid in man coverage and shows good hips and adequate hands.
Fuller is a physical cornerback who isn’t afraid to come up and stuff the run, and he can turn and run with speedy receivers as well. In Pittsburgh, he would likely start off in the nickel set and work his way into the starting lineup next to Cortez Allen in 2015.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
The Pick: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
For as good as the Kansas City Chiefs defense was in 2013, the offense continues to be a work in progress. Adding more speed on the outside would open up running lanes and the middle of the field. That makes Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks a very interesting selection here.
His speed and quickness are as good as anyone else's in the draft. He is a nightmare in the open field and is a threat to score every time he touches the football. He would free up Dwayne Bowe in coverage and give quarterback Alex Smith open looks in the short and intermediate routes.
24. Carolina Panthers (from Cincinnati)
The Pick: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Here the Carolina Panthers make a move to secure a wide receiver before none are left to choose from. The Panthers need a dynamic player on the outside to help fans forget Steve Smith.
Obviously, no one is about to forget him, but LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is incredibly talented. If he can be more consistent with the easy catches, he will have a long career ahead of him. What plants Beckham firmly in the first round is his impressive acceleration and speed. He can get behind a defensive back in only a few steps and is very hard to catch from behind.
25. San Diego Chargers
The Pick: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
There aren’t many holes on the Chargers roster. However, one area where they can blend a need with excellent value in the round is at cornerback. Getting TCU cornerback Jason Verrett would be too tempting to pass up at this point.
At 5'10", he might not have ideal size, but his combination of technical skills is the very best among all the cornerbacks in this class. He is smart and fearless with an exceptional resume. Verrett can play man or zone on a very high level and is quite impressive when the football is in the air.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis)
The Pick: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
After the Cleveland Browns get whom they hope is their quarterback of the future, they follow it up with someone to protect him. Notre Dame’s Zack Martin makes a lot of sense for the Browns on multiple levels. Guard is more of an urgent need for Cleveland, and he looks to be a great plug-and-play at either guard spot. However, his long-term fate is more likely as a right tackle.
The Browns could opt to pass on an offensive lineman here and instead add another weapon on offense. Don't be shocked if a running back like Carlos Hyde is the pick here to pair up with Ben Tate. Or they could grab another wide receiver like USC's Marqise Lee to give Manziel a strong, underneath presence.
27. New Orleans Saints
The Pick: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
The New Orleans Saints could go a couple of directions here. It is not out of the question that the Saints add a pass-rushing outside linebacker. However, the value for one at this point isn’t great. Where there is value is at wide receiver, which fills another need.
Fresno State’s Davante Adams might be the worst-kept secret in college football. He put up gaudy numbers in college and displays an NFL body with one of the most league-ready skill sets in the draft. He has deceptive speed on the field and is very difficult to bring down.
28. Cincinnati Bengals (from Carolina)
The Pick: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
Now that the Cincinnati Bengals have slid down in the round, they can focus on taking the top-rated player on their board. After losing Anthony Collins via free agency, a new starting right tackle is near the top of the list.
They could opt for a cornerback or defensive end here as well if they value one of the remaining players higher. However, Virginia’s Morgan Moses is too good to pass up. His footwork for a man that gargantuan (6’6”, 314 lbs) is elite. He is rarely beaten off the edge, and once he gets those massive 9.875" hands on you, it is over.
29. New England Patriots
The Pick: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Some teams are just smart about how they pick. The New England Patriots are one of those teams. They understand how to find players who not only fit their scheme but who can impact their team in multiple ways.
Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman has the look of a Patriots star. His size and power are impressive, and his ability to play inside or outside in a 3-4 or 4-3 base front means the Patriots coaching staff can make great use of him.
30. San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
With the cupboards pretty bare for first-round wide receivers, the San Francisco 49ers don’t need to panic. They have plenty of picks in the first three rounds to dabble in the depth of this class. Instead, they follow their plan of getting the best player on the board regardless of position.
Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix is an earth mover disguised as a football player. He’s also a perfect fit for the 49ers' 3-4 defense. He is a natural nose tackle prospect who plays with dominant leverage and the strength to overwhelm interior offensive linemen.
31. Denver Broncos
The Pick: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Looking at the Broncos roster, you can see they are loading up for a two-year run while quarterback Peyton Manning is still playing well. With that in mind, this pick needs to be a player who can come in and impact this team quickly.
That’s why Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby is the pick. His speed and ability to play press-man coverage give him a natural edge to work the slot as a nickel corner as a rookie. Depending on what happens with the roster at the end of the season, he could be in a prime position to start. None of Roby's flaws are such that they can't be coached out of him. And you can't teach his speed.
32. Seattle Seahawks
The Pick: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
When you are picking last, it means you did something right. It also means that the Seattle Seahawks don’t have much in the way of holes on their roster. However, with either Doug Baldwin or Ricardo Lockette starting at wide receiver, an upgrade might not hurt.
Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is a massive 6'5" target who can work outside the hashes. He is much more than a big possession receiver; he can be a legitimate downfield threat. It isn't hard to see quarterback Russell Wilson on a designed rollout throw it up for Benjamin deep downfield, and he just goes up and takes it away from smaller defenders.