The 2014 NFL draft is going to get off to an exciting start. Of course, the cause for the excitement is also what makes trying to mock the first round a complete nightmare.
There is nothing but uncertainty, as no one really knows where the top quarterbacks are going to go. They could fly off the board early with the each of the top-five teams (save for the Rams at No. 2) looking to identify their quarterback of the future.
Those teams, however, have also taken measures to take the desperation out of their need for a quarterback by acquiring signal-callers that can function as a stop-gap measure for the time being.
So, are these top teams going to go for a quarterback, or will they go for athletic freaks like defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and offensive tackle Greg Robinson?
Combine this with the inevitable surprise picks that will shock us on draft day, as well as the possibility of trades, and this mock is a challenging task.
Here is how I see all the madness playing out.
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Jadeveon Clowney going to the Texans with the No. 1 pick appears to be the popular trend at this point in time—but I'm not buying it.
It doesn't make sense for the Texans, as Clowney is best suited to play end in a 4-3 system, while current Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is best suited for a 3-4. Both guys are more than capable of making plays in any system, but it would be foolish to spend the No. 1 pick on a player and then not put him in the best position to succeed.
So, put me in the camp of former NFL coach Jon Gruden with this pick, as he believe Bortles should go here as well, per College Football 24/7:
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Rams don't have a need at defensive end, but they have the exact kind of system where Clowney could excel.
With Robert Quinn and Chris Long already at defensive end, the Rams could draft Clowney and then look to shop Long for draft picks, either in this draft or in the future.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Jaguars will go the safe route in this draft. Although this franchise could use a quick boost in appeal that would come with selecting a quarterback, it would be better off ensuring that it doesn't whiff on its pick.
Greg Robinson is an amazing talent at tackle and well worth the third selection.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
With two first-round picks and some good young talent already in place, the Cleveland Browns are in a great position to try and catch lightning in a bottle with Johnny Manziel.
The small and flashy quarterback is not without concerns, but there is no doubting his playmaking potential.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
With Johnny Manziel off the board, the Raiders will steer away from selecting a quarterback. This will lead them to the wonderful receiving skills of Sammy Watkins.
Watkins is a natural pass-catcher and a good athlete. He has the potential to be a true No. 1 receiver, and his addition would give the Raiders a quality receiving corps.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
If Khalil Mack is still on the board when the Falcons select, this pick is all too obvious. For starters, Mack is a strong value at No. 6. On top of that, he would fill the Falcons biggest need.
As Eric Edholm of Yahoo! Sports reports, the Falcons appear to be moving toward a 3-4 defensive scheme. All they need now is an outside linebacker who can get to the opposing quarterback.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
In this scenario, I'm torn between Jake Matthews and wide receiver Mike Evans.
Evans would fill a bigger need and is a wonderful prospect, but Matthews is a strong value at No. 7. Although this doesn't fill the biggest need for Tampa Bay, there is never anything wrong with landing a tackle who can excel in the NFL for over a decade.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Minnesota Vikings need stability at the quarterback position. Teddy Bridgewater was once widely viewed as the No. 1 pick in this draft, but his offseason has not progressed all that well. As SirusXM NFL Radio tweets, former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon wasn't impressed with Bridgewater's pro day:
On top of that, Bridgewater has been battling concerns over his lack of size (6'2", 214 lbs), and it is fair to wonder if he can handle the abuse of the NFL.
He is, however, a very polished passer who shouldn't need a lot of time to adjust to an NFL system. Bridgewater knows how to make correct audibles and go through his reads. This will have him battling for playing time right off the bat, and that would work out well for Minnesota.
9. Buffalo Bills: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The budding Bills defense is strong up the middle, but it could use some athleticism on the edge. Anthony Barr is raw, but he is a freakish athlete.
Barr will need seasoning, but he has the tools to excel in all phases of the position. He will make an impact in the pass rush from his first snap.
10. Detroit Lions: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
This is another pick that feels like a lock if C.J. Mosley is on the board when the Lions make their selection.
Mosley is an instinctive and smart middle linebacker. Playing behind Detroit's strong defensive line, Mosley will be free to run and make plays all over the field. This will bring the Lions some much-needed consistency.
11. Tennessee Titans: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Tennessee Titans can't be content with the signing of right tackle Michael Oher as the end of their search for talent on the edge of their offensive line.
For starters, Oher was shaky last season, and he could use competition. Also, last year's starting left tackle Michael Roos had a solid season, but he is 31 and will be entering the last year of his contract.
Taylor Lewan is good enough to start at one of the tackle positions from Day 1, and he would bring long-term stability and flexibility to the Titans.
12. New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Eric Ebron is such a wonderful talent at tight end that the following tweet from NBC Sports' Josh Norris is not all that concerning:
Yes, drops will hurt an offense, but Ebron will make enough plays to make up for that. Most importantly, the sheer threat of him busting down the seam will keep defenses from keeping safety help on the outside on every pass play as they wait for an ill-advised pass from Eli Manning.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Rams are in an enviable position with two picks in the top 13. One of the reasons they can afford to draft Clowney despite being stocked at defensive end is because they have this pick.
The Rams will be able to address their need at receiver here, and if Evans is still on the board, they will have a perfect fit. Evans has great size (6'5", 231 lbs) and hands. He will be a force all over the field for a long time, and he will pair well with the explosive Tavon Austin.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Bears need a lot of help on defense. Timmy Jernigan is not the sexiest selection, but he is a sturdy one, and he can certainly solidify the middle of the defensive line. Regardless, Chicago needs to rebuild that side of the ball from the inside out.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Darqueze Dennard plays like a Steelers corner, as he is physical and good in man coverage. He may not be the most athletic corner in the class, but he is the best fit for Pittsburgh.
With incumbent starting corner Ike Taylor about to turn 34, the Steelers must build up some depth at the position.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Cowboys must commit themselves to rebuilding their defense in this draft. In light of that, Calvin Pryor is a strong selection. After Pryor and Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, there is a steep drop off in talent at the safety position.
The Cowboys will be able to find quality players for the defensive line later in the draft, but they'll have to grab Pryor to get a quality free safety.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
Zack Martin is a workmanlike offensive lineman. He lacks a bit of length and burst, but he is strong and has good technique.
If Martin can't make it at tackle in the NFL, he will still be an excellent guard. The Ravens could use his help in the offensive trenches, wherever he contributes.
18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
The Jets are starving for playmakers. Signing wide receiver Eric Decker certainly helped, but this team still needs a player or two who can stretch the field.
Odell Beckham Jr. will definitely do that. This speedster will help the Jets spread the field.
19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Cyrus Kouandjio got the wrong kind of attention at the NFL combine when he reportedly failed the physicals of several teams.
Those concerns, as CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora notes, have recently been eased:
The Dolphins have to rebuild their offensive line, and Kouandjio has the talent to be a part of that process.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
I'm not convinced Aaron Donald will last this long, but I believe his lack of size (6'1", 285 lbs) will have a few teams passing on him. The Cardinals will not be one of them.
Donald has explosion to go along with his frame. He is a wonderful candidate to play end in Arizona's 3-4.
21. Green Bay Packers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Louis Nix III had a rather pedestrian season last year at Notre Dame, and it concluded with him having knee surgery.
This is not the best way to enter the draft. Still, Nix is a massive lineman who has flashed the potential to dominate. He will be a strong fit in Green Bay.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has the range and instincts to make plays in the defensive secondary. He will be able to patrol the back end of the defense and keep the Eagles from getting torched deep.
The Eagles, who finished last in passing defense in 2013, could certainly use that.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Marqise Lee's ability to make plays on deep balls will help open up the field for the Chiefs' short game.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
There is deep crop of corner talent in this draft. That will leave corners like Justin Gilbert on the board longer than their talent suggests.
Gilbert has good size (6'0", 202 lbs) and athleticism. The Bengals will not be able to pass on his value here, and they will use him to build up depth behind the 35-year-old Terence Newman.
25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The San Diego Chargers can't wait to draft a corner. This team is desperate for help in the defensive secondary.
Kyle Fuller will make an immediate impact. NBC's Josh Norris helps highlight this:
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
If the draft plays out like this, the Browns are going to have a fun offense. With the fourth pick, I had them taking Manziel. So, with this pick, I have the Browns bringing him a red-zone and third-down weapon in Kelvin Benjamin.
Benjamin has the skills to be a threat all over the field, but it is on a packed field where this big receiver (6'5", 240 lbs) will have the most value.
Now, here comes the fun part: Benjamin and Manziel will be joining an offense that already has talented playmakers in receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron. The Browns also bolstered the offensive group by recently signing veteran wide receiver Nate Burleson.
This would certainly give Manziel enough weapons to give opposing defenses fits.
27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
The Saints made great strides on defense last season, and they helped further that process by signing safety Jairus Byrd and veteran Champ Bailey. What the Saints still need, though, is an infusion of talent in the front seven.
Ryan Shazier will bring strength and athleticism to help the Saints improve against the rush.
28. Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Brandin Cooks is small (5'10", 189 lbs), strong and explosive. He will be a deep threat as well as a threat everywhere else on the field. He is a bit of a Steve Smith clone.
Speaking of Smith, the Panthers parted ways the receiver this offseason and are desperate for help at the position.
29. New England Patriots: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Patriots made a strong move this offseason by adding cornerback Darrelle Revis to take the place of the departed Aqib Talib. Still, this team could use another talented cover man.
Jason Verrett has coverage skills. He doesn't have a lot of size (5'9", 189 lbs), but he can stick to his man. He'll be able to help the Patriots lock down the slot while building up the skills it takes to handle the outside.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The 49ers could use a speedster wide receiver, but they won't have much of an opportunity to draft one at No. 30.
Allen Robinson is a solid fallback option. He has good size (6'2", 220 lbs) and solid route-running ability. He will be a dependable option for quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
31. Denver Broncos: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
It's no secret that the Broncos are in win-now mode. The team is rightfully not looking past next season.
That means Denver is going to look to draft a player who can make an instant impact. Kony Ealy can do that. Ealy is a great athlete with the skills to get to the passer. He may not ever be a complete defensive end, but he will be able to put pressure on the quarterback.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota
Ra'Shede Hageman is one of the more interesting prospects in this draft. He checks in at over 300 pounds, but he has the athleticism of a linebacker.
Still, he didn't have a lot of college success with that skill set.
Pete Carroll has not shied away from this type of player in the past, however, and the Seahawks need another massive body along their defensive line.
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