NFL Mock Draft 2014: Where Each Team Should Go with Its Round 1 Pick

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIApril 5, 2014

COLUMBIA, SC - SEPTEMBER 14:  Jadeveon Clowney #7 of the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on September 14, 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It's been a wild offseason so far.

Some teams made a huge splash in free agency, some provided big contract extensions to keep players in-house and others waited patiently and watched everything unfold.

No matter which of these strategies each franchise used, it's still of the utmost importance to build through the draft.

Now that the dust has settled—for the most part—we have a good idea of each team's needs entering the 2014 NFL draft. There should still be some draft-altering moves to come before Thursday, May 8, comes around, but as things stand right now, let's take a look at how everything may shake out in the draft's first round.

1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Clowney followed up a dazzling combine with another impressive showing at his pro day. He looks every bit the athletic freak we expected him to be. Despite the Texans' need for a quarterback, they will not be able to pass up on the potential of pairing Clowney with J.J. Watt. After all, according to a tweet from Tania Ganguli of ESPN, the defensive end would make Houston regret passing on him:

Look for the Texans to acquire their quarterback of the future early in the second round (Jimmy Garoppolo, anyone?).

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

With Clowney off the board and a not-so-huge need for a quarterback at this point, the Rams will grab the best receiver in this draft. Watkins will make an instant impact alongside Tavon Austin and will allow the newly acquired Kenny Britt some leniency as he gets used to a new system.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Yes, it's been documented that Bridgewater had a rather lackluster pro day. However, the backlash has been blown way out of proportion. Have people forgotten what a stud he was throughout his career at Louisville? Well, the Jaguars haven't, and they'll allow him to take the reins in Jacksonville.

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

The Browns are still intrigued by Manziel. According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN (h/t Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports), the team plans to bring the quarterback in for an individual visit later this month. Manziel has looked every bit like a true professional recently. From refined technique to impressive media sessions, he's restored his image and will be rewarded with an early selection in this year's draft.

5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Free agency provided a large amount of movement on the Raiders' defensive front. Losing Lamarr Houston was a big blow to the defense. The team gained some help by acquiring veterans, but it still needs a long-term answer. Mack is one of the most elite pass-rushers in this draft and will contribute immediately in multiple packages on Oakland's defense.

6. Atlanta Falcons: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Multiple injuries and dismal offensive line play doomed the Falcons' 2013 season. Now that Julio Jones and Co. are healthy once again, it's time to give Matt Ryan some additional protection. Robinson is the most complete offensive tackle in this year's draft and will be a 12-year starter for Atlanta.

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

Tampa Bay improved its offensive line via free agency by bringing in Anthony Collins. However, the team could still use an anchor on the opposite side of the line. Matthews is an NFL-ready prospect who could turn the Buccaneers offensive line into one of the NFL's elite.

8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

This is the best-case scenario for the Vikings. They are in desperate need of a signal-caller, and Bortles falling to eighth overall is a blessing. Finally, Minnesota will have someone under center who is reliable and has a very high ceiling.

9. Buffalo Bills: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

It's clear that quarterback EJ Manuel could use some more help. He showed flashes last season but struggled mightily at times. Bringing in a big, fast, quarterback-friendly target in Ebron will rapidly increase the offense's efficiency and Manuel's development.

10. Detroit Lions: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

Safety play in Detroit wasn't exactly spectacular last season. In a pass-happy division, this is a problem that must be immediately rectified. Clinton-Dix is a physical safety who has great anticipation and ball skills. He'll start right away, and the difference will be felt.

11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

The Titans defense improved in a big way during the 2013 season. Now, it's time to bring in young, athletic players who fit the scheme. Barr is a speedy pass-rusher who can also contribute in coverage. Suddenly, Tennessee's defense just got a whole lot better.

12. New York Giants: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

Eli Manning and Co. struggled quite a bit throughout the 2013 season. Now, aside from Victor Cruz, the team is in worse offensive shape than it was last year. Immediate help is needed, and the talents of Evans would be a huge help on a team attempting to rebound.

13. St. Louis Rams: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Now that the Rams have acquired a big-time offensive weapon, they can focus on doing the same for the other side of the ball. Dennard flourishes in man coverage on an island, has the ability to start right away and will form a formidable duo with Janoris Jenkins.

14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

The Bears revamped their pass rush by bringing in some big-name free agents over the offseason. However, stuffing the run could still be an issue. Donald is one of the most athletic at his position in this year's draft. He has the ability to close up running lanes and can slice his way into the backfield to help with the pass rush.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Suddenly, the Steelers find themselves lacking in the wide receiver department. Aside from Antonio Brown, there's simply not many options right now. Lee can come in and contribute immediately opposite Brown and give the likes of Markus Wheaton additional time to develop.

16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

It's safe to say that Dallas couldn't muster much defense on the back end last season. Safety play was a big problem for the Cowboys, and it will continue to be if the team doesn't address the position in the draft. Pryor is a tremendously physical safety who can play center field and provide support against the run in the box.

17. Baltimore Ravens: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

The Ravens solidified their wide receiver corps by bringing in Steve Smith to complement Torrey Smith and Co. Now, the team needs added protection for Joe Flacco. Lewan may be the most athletic offensive lineman in this year's draft. He's quick on his feet and a mauler in the trenches.

18. New York Jets: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Sure, the Jets need some help on the offensive side of the ball; however, after losing Antonio Cromartie, corner becomes a dire need. Dee Milliner struggled last season, and the Jets need to bring in a playmaker to pair with him. Gilbert is a stud. He's fast, strong and has great ball skills. He should become the team's No. 1.

19. Miami Dolphins: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

Miami has a great defensive end in Cameron Wake. If the team would bring in a force on the opposite side of the line, the Dolphins pass rush would be terrifying. Ealy is quick off the line, has a nose for the quarterback and is extremely disruptive in the backfield.

20. Arizona Cardinals: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

Carson Palmer played very well last season; however, the Cardinals need to look for his heir apparent. Carr is a perfect fit here. He has a rocket arm that will go a long way in Arizona's vertical passing game, and he would benefit from learning under Palmer during his rookie season.

21. Green Bay Packers: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

When the Packers lost Jermichael Finley, the big tight end's absence was immediately felt on the field. Aaron Rodgers is at his best when he can rely on a big, speedy tight end up the seam in addition to his receivers. Amaro is very athletic and will become a huge threat in the red zone.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

After releasing DeSean Jackson, the Eagles are in need of a playmaker at the wide receiver position. There's no way Chip Kelly can pass up on the speed and versatility of Beckham here. A shifty receiver who can create yards after the catch, Beckham will find himself right at home in the Eagles' high-octane offense.

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

The Chiefs already have a strong cornerback duo of Brandon Flowers and Sean Smith. Although, when facing Peyton Manning twice a year, more depth is needed in the defensive secondary. Verrett is a versatile corner who can play outside and in the slot. He is shifty and fast enough to hang with the league's faster receivers.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

Cincinnati lost Anthony Collins in free agency, and Andrew Whitworth is in the twilight of his NFL career. Bringing in Martin would be a great move here. Martin can serve as a tackle but is versatile enough to play every spot along the offensive line. He'd bring quality depth to an offensive line that severely lacks it.

25. San Diego Chargers: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA

Philip Rivers and Co. really turned things around in 2013. With the resurgence of the Chargers offense, the team quickly found itself making a big playoff run. To continue that trend in 2014, better protection is needed up front. Su'a-Filo is an NFL-ready guard who will provide San Diego a huge upgrade.

26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts): Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

The Browns showed some interest in DeSean Jackson; however, it didn't pan out. Selecting Cooks here would be a great fit for Cleveland, as he is very much a Jackson clone. A smaller receiver who has great hands and can stretch the field, Cooks will be a perfect complement to Josh Gordon.

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

After a drastic defensive overhaul in 2013, Rob Ryan and the Saints defense are ready to continue upgrading a solid unit. Shazier is a natural leader and a sure tackler. He isn't the most athletic linebacker, but he's always in the right place. That kind of reliability is key for a successful defense.

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

Losing Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell does not bode well for the Panthers offense in 2014. This team needs a wide receiver immediately. Benjamin is a huge target who will be a chain-mover and red-zone threat for Cam Newton.

29. New England Patriots: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

It's no secret that the Patriots struggled to defend against the run last season. The team needs to add some support on the interior of the defensive line. Not only does Hageman give New England that, but he's a versatile player who can be moved around like a chess piece. Bill Belichick loves that kind of athlete.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

San Francisco has one of the most dominant defensive fronts in the league. The team is simply chock-full of talent. However, upgrading at the nose tackle position could make the 49ers even better. Nix is pure 3-4 nose tackle who can use his girth to plug up running lanes and open up windows for blitzing linebackers.

31. Denver Broncos: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

The Broncos made a great move by bringing in Aqib Talib during free agency. However, added depth is needed in their defensive secondary. Roby showed flashes of greatness while at Ohio State. He's stout in coverage and fast enough to cover the league's quicker receivers. He should blossom into a very reliable NFL corner sooner rather than later.

32. Seattle Seahawks: David Yankey, OG, Stanford

Seattle is arguably the deepest team in the NFL. The Seahawks don't have many glaring needs; however, upgrading on the interior of the offensive line should be a priority. Russell Wilson needs to stay upright to ensure this team's success. Yankey will be an instant starter and immediate upgrade to help ensure that Seattle's aspiring quarterback remains clean.


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