NFL Mock Draft 2014: Common-Sense Selections for Every 1st-Round Pick

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVApril 10, 2014

Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy

This year's NFL draft is in May for the first time in recent memory, and it can't get here soon enough.

Football has technically been in the offseason since Feb. 2, but the draft process makes it a 24-hour, 365-day process as scouts and coaches are never busier with prospects than they are during the months of February, March and April. It's crunch time for all of these teams, many of which have franchise-changing decisions on the horizon.

These picks are made with common sense in mind for every team. While some mock drafts may look for attractive matches, this is geared toward the safest pick each team can make for its future.

Many times, that means simply going with the best player on the board. Other times, finding the right fit for the organization's personnel needs is the more intelligent choice. 

Without further ado, let's break down a fresh first-round mock.

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

The Texans have every ability to go after the top quarterback in the class, and maybe they will. But there's no doubting what they will be missing if they pass on Jadeveon Clowney.

One of the most gifted athletes to come out of college in years, Clowney needs nothing but the right people in his corner and the right coach to become one of the NFL's best players. With Bill O'Brien, there's no doubt that the South Carolina product will be led in the right direction, and there's also little doubt that he will find another way to fill the void at the quarterback slot. 

Mary Ann Chastain

At 6'6" and 275 pounds, Clowney has the size to be a down lineman but the speed and versatility to be a linebacker. He's nimble enough to glide around the outside of the best of offensive lines, and he has enough brute strength to rip through holes and fill run lanes. 

With J.J. Watt already in the fold, Houston would immediately emerge as a matchup problem for every opponent it faces.

O'Brien may be an offensive-minded guy, but you'd have to think that adding that sort of weapon and matchup problem to the defense will only make the head coach more comfortable as he assembles his O. 

2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

With two coveted early picks in the 2014 draft, St. Louis will go safe with its second overall pick and lock up a portion of its offensive line by grabbing Greg Robinson. The Auburn standout is 6'5" and 332 pounds, but he moves his feet with the athleticism of a basketball power forward and is the perfect breed of tackle to handle new-age pass-rusher such as Clowney.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo 

Michael Conroy

Khalil Mack exits Buffalo with more forced fumbles than anyone in NCAA history, and he will take his athletic skill set to Jacksonville as the Jaguars look to revamp their franchise.

His name may not carry the same weight as Clowney's, but that's only a matter of time. When Mack takes off in the NFL, he'll become a household name. 

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

It would be a shocker if Cleveland went with anything other than a quarterback with the fourth pick. The only question now is whether it's Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater.

Manziel-to-Cleveland looked to be dead when the Browns were one of two NFL teams to skip Manziel's pro day, but it picked up steam when ESPN's Chris Mortensen tweeted that Johnny Football will work out for the Browns in the upcoming weeks. 

The critiques on Johnny Football are obvious—size, the image, etc.—but there's no mistaking his playmaking ability. Manziel's phenomenal freshman season that came out of nowhere was validated by a sophomore campaign that was, in some ways, better than his Heisman season. And he worked on his mechanics and further developed into a prototypical pocket passer.

The Browns' quarterback position has been famously unstable in recent seasons, but Manziel coming to town should change all of that. 

5. Oakland Raiders: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

The Raiders might rather grab one of the top defensive players in the draft, but with Clowney and Mack off the board, they will address their nagging quarterback problem. Teddy Bridgewater has the looks of an NFL starter, and Oakland will try its hand at developing him into one over the next few years.

6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Atlanta's run game was atrocious last season, only rushing for an average of 77.9 yards per contest. Much of that was due to a woeful offensive line, which would receive a shot in the arm with Jake Matthews—quite possibly the best lineman to come out of the last few draft classes. 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Michael Conroy

Sammy Watkins enters an interesting setting in Tampa Bay. He will line up alongside Vincent Jackson to create one of the NFC's scariest wideout combinations. And with Luke McCown seemingly taking over the starting role, the Bucs passing game could take off like it did last year in Chicago when McCown was throwing balls to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. 

8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

Mike Zimmer enters his first season as Minnesota's head coach needing a franchise quarterback, and he won't pass up on the chance to get him here. Blake Bortles provokes some questions, but with a 6'5", 230-pound frame, playmaking ability and solid leadership qualities, the Vikings will roll the dice and hope they found their new franchise quarterback. 

9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Arguably Buffalo's biggest strength last season was in the run game, but that came with a huge gap in the tackle position as Bills quarterbacks E.J. Manuel and Thad Lewis were under duress all season. With Michigan's Taylor Lewan joining the team, Buffalo will be able to lock up Manuel's blind side for the long term and allow him to focus more on finding receivers than escaping pressure. 

10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State 

Detroit struggled on offense throughout its late-season collapse, but its secondary was the most glaring problem all season long. But that would be given a huge boost if the Lions grab Justin Gilbert in the draft. The Oklahoma State product is NFL ready and will be able to start right away.

11. Tennessee Titans: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Michael Conroy

The Titans added Wesley Woodyard to revamp their linebacking crew, so now it's most likely that they will look to the cornerback spot with their 11th pick. With Gilbert off the board, Dennard isn't much of a step down. The 5'11", 200-pounder garnered first-team All-American awards and also won the Jim Thorpe Award for the nation's top defensive back. 

12. New York Giants: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

Kony Ealy is a handful of a defensive end and has experience rushing against some of the nation's biggest and burliest offensive lines in the SEC. At 6'4" and 273 pounds, Ealy won't take long to prove why he skipped his senior season as he becomes one of the Giants' new-age pass-rushers. 

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

The Rams might be tempted to snag Watkins at pick No. 2, but should they go conservative and grab an offensive lineman, there's no way they will pass up a receiver with this pick. In turn, they will be ecstatic. 

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

Keith Srakocic

Chicago could use some help in the secondary, but it won't be able to pass on Timmy Jernigan here at No. 14. Gilbert and Dennard are already off the board, and Jernigan has all the makings of the next Vince Wilfork in size, presence and pure athletic ability. 

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

Barr once looked like the top defensive player in this draft, but he won't fall too far. Pittsburgh hasn't had a dominating presence in pass rushing since James Harrison, and the UCLA standout boasts all of the physical abilities to be that breed of player.

16. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

Add the Cowboys to the long list of teams that need interior help. That looks to be priority No. 1 in Dallas entering the 2014 season, and it's one that will force Jerry Jones and company to look Aaron Donald's way at No. 16. 

17. Baltimore Ravens: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Baltimore still hasn't completely gotten over losing Anquan Boldin after its Super Bowl victory, and drafting Kelvin Benjamin here won't make that happen right away. But the Ravens won't have to wait for long for the 2014 BCS National Championship hero to develop into a pass-catching monster in the NFL. 

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

In case you have been living under a rock or just away from sports, the Jets need players who can catch passes. That didn't really change after they added Eric Decker this offseason, but it will begin to after North Carolina's Eric Ebron joins the fold. He's one of the most athletic players in this draft class altogether, and by far the most able tight end. 

19. Miami Dolphins: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee

If this mock draft is truly based on common sense, Miami might be trading up to No. 1 to grab an offensive lineman. But if the Dolphins stay put at No. 19, they will have to reach and grab Antonio Richardson from Tennessee. Richardson isn't a sure-fire first-round pick, but he is close and has all the makings of a long-term starter at tackle. That's just what Miami needs. 

20. Arizona Cardinals: Calvin Pryor, CB, Louisville

Michael Conroy

Calvin Pryor is the physical sort of defensive back that will fit right in with Arizona, and he will be able to do that as the Cardinals draft him at No. 20. The Cardinals saw a resurgent 2013 season, but to get to the next step and make the playoffs, they will need to add more young studs like Pryor. 

21. Green Bay Packers: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

Among the many teams with hapless secondaries in the NFL last year lies Green Bay, which would add a perfect fit in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The Alabama product will bring a winning culture into the locker room but more importantly, a dominant ball-hawking presence that could develop Clinton-Dix into a Pro Bowl-caliber player. 

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Chip Kelly just lost DeSean Jackson to the rival Redskins, and he will be fuming to add speedy playmakers to his system as soon as possible. Marqise Lee might not bring as much pure speed, but he's a home run threat, a dominating presence and a reliable one-on-one wideout all in one.

Plus, Kelly and Lee have that Pac-12 connection.

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

The Chiefs went from the league's worst team to a playoff team in one season, but it was no thanks to the team's lack of offensive weapons. Quarterback Alex Smith had nobody other than Dwayne Bowe to throw to, and Kansas City will be itching to add a tight end like Jace Amaro. He will need time, but Amaro should be able to contribute pretty much right away and make an impact as a rookie. 

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn

The Bengals don't have any pressing concerns or starting spots to fill, but adding a big body to the pass rush will be one of the top priorities. They could be getting a diamond in the rough with Dee Ford, who has played well as a leader for Auburn in recent seasons and exploded during the Tigers' BCS title game run. 

25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

The Chargers made the playoffs in spite of their below-average defense, which would receive massive—literally, massive—reinforcements with the drafting of Louis Nix III. The Notre Dame standout has the size to plug up the interior, but the feet to adjust and tackle rushers. 

26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

Mark Zaleski

The Browns need at least one more young weapon to add to a suddenly strong receiving corps led by Josh Gordon. Jordan Matthews would be a solid addition, as the Vanderbilt receiver has carried the load and gone up against the nation's best defensive backs in the SEC for four years.

27. New Orleans Saints: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

The Saints saw a revamped defense in 2013 under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, but there is still work that needs to be done. Ryan will get a leader in the middle of the defense with C.J. Mosley, who has played under Nick Saban, one of the best defensive minds in all of football. 

28. Carolina Panthers: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

Carolina entered the offseason needing receiving help, and then the Panthers lost Steve Smith. To begin the recovery process, it's a given that Carolina will go with a wideout in the opening round and Beckham would be a solid addition. 

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

Vince Wilfork may be coming back to New England, but the Patriots will already start to look to the future by grabbing Ra'Shede Hageman. The Minnesota product is 6'6", 311 pounds and an absolute terror for opposing linemen to defend.

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

Michael Conroy

The 49ers have needed to add some depth at the playmaking spot for quite some time. It's probably the only weakness on their otherwise stacked roster. So it comes as no surprise here that San Francisco grabs Brandin Cooks, the Oregon State speedster who will help to stretch the field for Colin Kaepernick

31. Denver Broncos: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

With Wesley Woodyard bolting to Tennessee, the Broncos will need to add some depth at the linebacker spot. Ryan Shazier has all of the athletic tools you could want, and learning underneath Von Miller and Danny Trevathan sounds like a pretty sweet gig. 

32. Seattle Seahawks: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

The Seahawks, like many teams at the bottom of the first round, don't have many glaring problems. But they won't blink at the chance to add a lineman like Kouandjio to the fold, who will bring Alabama's winning culture and a work ethic that will allow him to get some early playing time. 


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