2014 NFL Mock Draft: Draft Selections That Will Change Franchises

R. Cory SmithSenior Writer IApril 3, 2014

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, center, talks during South Carolina's pro day in Columbia, S.C., Wednesday, April 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
Mary Ann Chastain

Offseason moves are huge in the NFL, but no process throughout the down months in football is as crucial and laborious as the draft.

The 2014 NFL draft just so happens to feature a plethora of players at multiple positions that are all lightning rods on draft boards such as Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney and Sammy Watkins. But which of those players will be worth the risk of taking in the top 10, or even the top five, of the draft?

Phrases like "can't miss player" or "future Hall of Famer" are thrown around during the draft process, almost as often as "potential bust" and "character issues." With every analyst having their own take on individual players, though, sorting through the pile can be a difficult task.

While the next crop of NFL superstars are continuing to do everything they can to solidify their draft stock, coaches and scouts are simply looking for a player that can change the landscape for their franchise.

Here is a look at a full first-round mock draft, highlighting players that will instantly make an impact for the team that selects them.


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

There are a number of different directions that the Houston Texans could go with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, but taking Blake Bortles is one that could change the franchise right away.

New head coach Bill O'Brien is taking over a team that has a wealth of talent already on the roster. As tweeted by the team, O'Brien told fans on Monday that he plans to pick a quarterback in the draft, "maybe two" of them (h/t NFL.com's Mike Huguenin).

While Houston could still probably trade back and get the signal-caller they want, Bortles is currently at the top of the 2014 quarterback class.


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

The signing of Kenny Britt might mean that the St. Louis Rams will trade down from this spot, but Sammy Watkins is still the player that will change the future of the franchise in St. Louis.

While it may not be a perfect science, Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union brought up that exact point after Britt agreed to terms with the Rams:

After torching pretty much every defense that he faced at Clemson, Watkins comes out of college as a polished receiver that still has upside at the pro level. His speed and hands make him the best wideout in the 2014 class, but his size makes him a perfect fit for the Rams' system.


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

Putting it simply, Jadeveon Clowney is still a possible No. 1 overall pick.

With his talent, speed, size and athleticism, Clowney has the potential to be a game-changer at the next level. In fact, B/R's very own Matt Miller gave a glimpse of what he would do if he had the No. 1 overall selection:

Questions about his effort during his final season with South Carolina haven't quite been answered through pro days and his performance at the combine, but what he brings to the field is unmatched by any other prospect in the class.


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

One of the most polarizing figures in college football for the past two seasons is once again becoming a source of controversy during the draft.

But what Johnny Manziel offers is a potential franchise quarterback who can carry the Cleveland Browns offense. With weapons like Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon around him, along with a great defense to support him, Manziel has a chance to thrive with the Browns.


5. Oakland Raiders: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Before the 2013 college football season got underway, Teddy Bridgewater was the can't-miss prospect that every team wanted to take with the No. 1 pick. It is now Bortles who is viewed in that light, as he is now regarded by many as the best signal-caller in the 2014 class.

However, Bridgewater's ability and polish behind center still makes him one of the best—if not the best—quarterbacks in this crop. Miller made his thoughts pretty clear about Bridgewater:

Any questions about his accuracy might have been answered when he pulled off this trick during his meeting with John Gruden of ESPN, via SportsCenter:

OK, maybe that's not going to change any minds about Bridgewater—how did that whole throwing from the knees thing work out for JaMarcus Russell?—but he's done more than enough to prove his worth as a first-round quarterback.


6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo

In terms of players that can make an immediate impact on a team, the Atlanta Falcons really don't need one due to the talent that they already have on the roster. But with the addition of Khalil Mack, the Dirty Birds will have a difference maker on the defensive side of the ball.

Per Josh Friemel of the Dallas Morning News, Baylor head coach Art Briles spoke about the talent of Mack during the college football season, stating, "All the talk that he's generated for himself, he certainly deserves," Briles said. "He's a big-time, good football player. If I had to compare him to somebody, I watched two or three plays and said Von Miller."

With players like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones on offense, Mack would bolster the defense and could help Atlanta take back NFC South supremacy.


7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

In one of the deepest divisions in the NFL—though it didn't look that way in 2013—the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to upgrade their defense in order to stack up with the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints.

With one of the best outside linebackers in the class in Anthony Barr, new head coach Lovie Smith and the Bucs will be on their way. And with a chip on his shoulder after being the second linebacker taken, Barr will prove his worth for the Buccaneers against three great offensive teams in the NFC South.


8. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Carr, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Just outside of the top tier of quarterbacks sits Derek Carr, a quarterback whom many believe could make just as big of an impact as any of the top three in the class.

When it comes to his own thoughts on the situation, Carr shared where he thinks he deserves to be placed in the 2014 crop with Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer:

In the most humble way you can answer that question, yes (I'm the best). Absolutely. There's no doubt in my mind. That's a tough one for me to answer because I don't like talking about myself in that light, but to answer it, absolutely.

There's no doubt in my mind that I can play with those guys, and if we're going to compete, I like my chances. It only takes one team to fall in love with you. That's all we want, that one team to fall in love and just take you, because if they do, that means you're their guy.

Though not many scouts see it that way, Carr will come into the league hoping to shake off the perceptions about his ability and also get away from the failures of his brother David Carr, a former No. 1 overall pick who wound up being a bust.

In Derek Carr, the Vikings could be adding the piece that brings together a potent offense which already includes Adrian Peterson and an emerging star in Cordarrelle Patterson. 


9. Buffalo Bills: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

With the Buffalo Bills already featuring a great defense that will help them contend in the AFC East, continuing to build on offense seems like a necessity.

Thanks to the addition of Greg Robinson, the most talented and athletically gifted offensive tackle in the class, the Bills can start touting an offense that will complement their already budding unit on the other side of the ball.


10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

There's been much debate since the combine, and even before it, about who the best cornerback in the class is. With his shutdown abilities shining through at Michigan State and his combine performance doing everything to confirm them, Darqueze Dennard is the best fit for the Detroit Lions with the No. 10 pick.

The Lions have already filled a hole on offense with the addition of Golden Tate at wide receiver, and they should address another need with Dennard lining up across from any team's No. 1 wideout in the future.


11. Tennessee Titans: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Immediately following the selection of Dennard, another player that many scouts believe should be the first cornerback taken will get his name called. Justin Gilbert has a chance to shine at the NFL level, and the Tennessee Titans have a need at the position.

One analyst that has faith in the future NFL defensive back is Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com. On NFL Network's "Path to the Draft," Jeremiah made it clear what he thought about the Oklahoma State star, (h/t Bryan Fischer of NFL.com):

It's still Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State. This is a good group of corners, but to me, he's head and shoulders over everybody else. He has that prototypical size, length and ability to go up and play the football down the field. That's what he does better than anybody else in this draft class.

With the loss of Alterraun Verner to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency, the Titans need to immediately fill that role with an impact player. Gilbert is an outstanding corner, and he can help Tennessee continue to grow on defense for the next several years.


12. New York Giants: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

After signing Robert Ayers on Wednesday, per Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports, the Giants no longer have a need at the defensive end position. With Greg Robinson taking over as the No. 1 offensive tackle in the 2014 class, Jake Matthews has slid back into the lap of the New York Giants at the No. 12 pick.

He is seen as one of the safest picks in the first round due to his measurables and consistency on the line for Texas A&M over his college tenure. And after blocking for Manziel for the last two years, he could be doing the same for Eli Manning, who could use some help staying in the pocket long enough to find open receivers.


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

St. Louis features a defense that is young and explosive in a division where defense is everything. With the addition of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, the Rams will have another young star that can thrive in their system.

Mike Mayock of NFL.com originally had Calvin Pryor as his No. 1 free safety earlier in the offseason, but he has now thrust the Alabama product into that position.

The Rams got their receiver with the No. 2 overall pick and will look to shore up the defensive side of the ball with their second selection in the draft. With Clinton-Dix still on the board, taking the top free safety in the class will help St. Louis once again keep up with the great defenses in its division.

With Clinton-Dix roaming the backfield for the Rams defense, St. Louis will have another piece to combine with the likes of Robert Quinn and Chris Long to build another great defensive corps in the NFC West.


14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

After an abysmal year defensively for the Chicago Bears, they will look to fill their most glaring need with an immediate impact player in the first round. And with the top overall defensive tackle still left on the board, the Bears going with Aaron Donald is as close to a lock as we'll get.

The Pittsburgh product has proved that he can hold his own against other great linemen even though he's undersized (6'1", 285 lbs). He might not be the only defensive player the Bears take, but Donald is a great start for the deflated group.


15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

The Pittsburgh Steelers will happily take Evans to replenish a depleted receiving corps after losing Emmanuel Sanders in free agency. While the team did add Lance Moore, the Steelers will still look to acquire one of the most talented receivers in the draft.

Mel Kiper of ESPN believes the wideout is just behind Watkins when it comes to talent, via NFL on ESPN:

While Evans is viewed as the No. 2 receiver in the draft, he has the potential to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL. The talent across the middle of the field and size (6'5", 231 lbs) that Evans brings would make him a huge asset for the Steelers.


16. Dallas Cowboys: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

Coming off perhaps one of their worst defensive seasons in the history of the franchise, the Dallas Cowboys will try to get an immediate difference-maker with Timmy Jernigan.

After reworking the entire defensive coaching staff and suffering against running and passing offenses alike last season, the Cowboys will go with one of the most athletic tackles in the draft.


17. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

Just over a year removed from winning a Super Bowl, the Baltimore Ravens are still trying to rebuild one of the best defenses in the NFL from a few years ago.

Coming out of Louisville, Calvin Pryor has skyrocketed up draft boards and earned his title as the No. 2 safety in the class. With the Ravens having a need to fill at the position, Pryor is a perfect fit and could help revive a secondary that struggled last season after several seasons of dominance.


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

This offseason, the New York Jets have already started the process of improving their anemic offense with the signing of Eric Decker. But that move won't revive a passing game that couldn't get going throughout much of the season.

And with Rex Ryan needing to solidify his position for years to come by having an offense that can contend in the AFC East, expect him to go after the best tight end in the draft if he's still on the board.


19. Miami Dolphins: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Taylor Lewan went into the combine with questions about his past, but he came away from the event as one of the top prospects in the class. His athleticism and burst off the line were on display, and he will be a huge part of the Miami Dolphins' success on offense in the coming years.

It has yet to be seen whether or not his most recent brush-up with the law will affect his draft stock, but with the talent that he brings to the table, he is still worthy of a first-round selection.

The key to getting the Dolphins offense going in 2014 will be keeping Ryan Tannehill upright throughout the season. They were not very good at that in 2013, but that was due in large part to the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin situation, which clouded the season and also cost the team two starting offensive linemen.


20. Arizona Cardinals: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Arizona Cardinals

After a huge season with Minnesota, Ra'Shede Hageman has emerged as one of the top defensive prospects in the entire class. While both Donald and Jernigan rank ahead of Hageman, the former Gopher is a gritty player with the jump off the line that NFL teams prize.

His tough play on the line will make him a first-rounder, but his talent on the defensive side of the ball will make him a great player in the NFC West.


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

With the moves the Green Bay Packers have already made in free agency, they reigning NFC North champs are an improved team. And with the addition of C.J. Mosley to shore up the middle of the field, the Packers will continue to grow defensively.

Alongside Clay Matthews and the recently signed Julius Peppers, who will move to linebacker this season, Mosley will have a chance to learn under two of the best defensive players in the game. And with his talent already apparent at Alabama, he will thrive in Green Bay.


22. Philadelphia Eagles: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

The loss of DeSean Jackson appears to be a crushing blow for the Eagles offense. But picking up Brandin Cooks, a speedy receiver with a similar skill set, means that Chip Kelly can pick up right where he left off in 2014.

Will he be as supremely talented right away as Jackson? No, but with time Cooks has an opportunity to develop into a great wideout in Kelly's system. 


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

While Marqise Lee didn't put up the great numbers during the regular season or at the combine, his abilities as a receiver will still make him coveted by a team like the Kansas City Chiefs.

Though he's considered a fringe first-rounder at this point, his fit alongside Dwayne Bowe makes sense. With a few years to grow and learn in Andy Reid's system, Lee has a chance to explode with the Chiefs.


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

Despite losing their defensive coordinator, the Cincinnati Bengals have a stout defense that helped get them to the playoffs in 2013.

With that said, the team still needs to address the cornerback position. Terence Newman is in the twilight of his career, and Adam Jones is entering his ninth season in the league.

If Kyle Fuller is still on the board at the 24th pick, the Bengals would be better off adding him to the roster and letting him flourish in their system.


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

With a great combine performance and plenty of tape from his years at TCU to back it up, Jason Verrett is slowly becoming a lock as a first-round pick.

He could continue to climb, but for now, he's an ideal fit for the San Diego Chargers. They need a defensive back, and Verrett is the best one available with the 25th overall selection.


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

Kelvin Benjamin, much like fellow receiver Lee, has experienced a slight downslide for many analysts during his offseason workouts. But with his incredible size (6'5", 240 lbs) and speed down field, Benjamin and Manziel locking up in Cleveland could wind up being a huge move for the future of the franchise.

Aside from his measurables that pass the eye test for scouts, coaches and executives, Benjamin also works perfectly for Manziel if the Browns pull the trigger on the Aggies quarterback with the fourth pick. With a 6'5" wideout, the undersized signal-caller will have an easy target to find down the field or across the middle to go along with Gordon and Cameron.


27. New Orleans Saints: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

The New Orleans Saints have made several huge moves to improve their team after making the playoffs as the NFC's No. 6 seed in 2013, but one more defensive standout in the front seven could make Rob Ryan a very happy man.

That extra addition will come in the form of Kony Ealy. The standout defensive end at Missouri has the chance to be one of the best defensive ends in the class, and he will make an instant impact in a tough NFC South.


28. Carolina Panthers: Zach Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame

With the loss of Jordan Gross, the Carolina Panthers are in desperate need of a replacement at the position.

If Zach Martin of Notre Dame is still on the board, his addition would be a great one, as he could fill that position immediately. Thanks to his size (6'4", 308 lbs) and hands, Martin is just the latest in a line of great tackles in the 2014 class, and he will immediately help the Panthers offense.

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

With Rob Gronkowski struggling to stay on the field and no Aaron Hernandez, what should the New England Patriots do with pick No. 29 in the first round?

Yeah, you guessed it. Picking Jace Amaro here just makes sense for both sides. The former Texas Tech tight end is both athletic and has the physicality to contend with defenses across the middle of the field, much like Gronkowski.

As for Miller, he clearly agrees:

With Jace Amaro still on the board, who has been compared to Aaron Hernandez without the baggage, the Pats will pull the trigger on a guy who opens up the middle of the field for Tom Brady.


30. San Francisco 49ers: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

With great speed and experience dealing with stout defenses in the SEC, Odell Beckham Jr. would join a San Francisco 49ers team that is already primed for a potential run to the Super Bowl.

With the addition of the 21-year-old receiver, the Niners would have a wideout for the future alongside Michael Crabtree. Getting the chance to learn under Anquan Boldin, a Super Bowl champion with the Ravens before signing with the Niners, wouldn't hurt his development, either.


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

Several needs have already been addressed for the Denver Broncos with the signings of both DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward, and the only glaring needs that remain for the team are at inside linebacker and offensive guard.

After Mosley was taken earlier in the draft, Denver will lock up another player with the potential to help the team immediately in 2014.

While Xavier Su'a Filo is a fringe first-rounder, the Broncos will cross off their offseason needs list with his talent. Not only that, but Denver has several rounds remaining to continue improving and set the stage for Peyton Manning to win his second Super Bowl. 


32. Seattle Seahawks: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

After a lackluster combine performance, Cyrus Kouandjio could slide out of the first round. If the Seahawks go with Kouandjio, they'll not only have a viable player who can fill in right now, but they will also have a lineman who can hold his own for years to come.

He might take some time to develop with the Seattle Seahawks, but his addition will be necessary to protect the most prized possessions of all in Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch.


All height/weight information courtesy of NFL.com.


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