NFL Mock Draft 2014: Best Value Picks for All 32 First-Round Selections

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NFL Mock Draft 2014: Best Value Picks for All 32 First-Round Selections
Michael Conroy

If there is a common phrase that all 32 teams use in the NFL draft, it is value. The goal of adding talent to a roster is to get the most bang for your buck, whether it's drafting a promising player or signing an undrafted free agent. 

This year's draft is loaded with potential value picks because it's so deep at virtually every position. There's a perfect blend of star power at the top and quality depth in the later rounds. 

In this latest mock draft, here are the best value picks for all 32 first-round selections. 

 

1. Houston Texans (2-14): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

No one can deny that Jadeveon Clowney believes in himself, to the point where some label him cocky or arrogant. But like any top competitor, he is confident in his abilities, as SportsCenter shared:

Whatever your personal opinion of him is, there's no refuting his amazing talent and upside. The Texans are in a strange position where they need a quarterback, but this freakish athlete who can get after the passer is sitting in their lap. 

Ultimately, since none of the top quarterbacks are surefire franchise guys, why not take the best player at a position that has become increasingly valuable in this pass-happy league?

 

2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington 3-13): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

If Sam Bradford is going to take the next step or stay upright long enough to prove he can, someone has to protect his blind side. Greg Robinson is a worthy No. 2 pick and can step in right away for an improving Rams team. 

 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12): Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida 

In a class without an elite quarterback prospect, the Jaguars have their pick of a solid bunch. Blake Bortles doesn't have top-flight arm strength, but the accuracy and touch on his passes, as well as prototypical height at 6'5", make him an excellent fit for a team that has to develop a quarterback. 

 

4. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville 

The media made a lot out of Teddy Bridgewater's poor pro day, but Bill Barnwell of Grantland.com put everything in perspective:

The entire pre-draft process — but most notably the pro day quarterback workout — is designed to make guys like Bortles look good while hiding the strengths of a player like Bridgewater...

And Bortles might very well be a better quarterback than Bridgewater when all is said and done, but I strongly doubt what happened last week gives us any reliable data on whether that’s the case.

Having a poor workout in shorts isn't ideal for a job interview in the NFL, but it doesn't erase the evidence that Bridgewater is more than capable of handling himself when the pads are on. 

 

5. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Michael Conroy

The Raiders have actually done a good job of supplementing their roster in free agency, even with the Rodger Saffold fiasco. They've added quality veterans to cheap one- and two-year deals that don't tie up their salary cap long term. 

Even though quarterback is still a massive problem, there isn't one worth taking at this spot. Sorry, Johnny Manziel fans, but he's not a top-five pick, especially in a draft this deep. 

Therefore, the best thing Oakland can do with its first-round pick is find a player who will protect the future quarterback, whoever that may be, for the next decade. Jake Matthews is perfect for what this team needs right now because he has such a high floor and is ready to start from Day 1. 

 

6. Atlanta Falcons (4-12): Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

The Falcons would love to see Jadeveon Clowney or one of the two tackles get to this spot, but Khalil Mack is a fantastic consolation prize. 

It's unclear whether the Falcons are switching to a 3-4 defense, although the signing of a player like Tyson Jackson suggests that. Mack is a perfect 3-4 outside linebacker with the ability to drop back in coverage or rush the passer. Either way, he has the kind of talent that a team must find a way to use by any means necessary.

 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Despite their record last year, the Buccaneers aren't far away from being competitive in the NFC South. Josh McCown may not be the long-term solution at quarterback, but having multiple options to choose from is never a bad thing. 

Something else that isn't bad is having dynamic playmakers on the outside for those quarterbacks to target. Vincent Jackson is a home run threat, so pairing him with do-it-all stud Sammy Watkins would give the Buccaneers a dynamic that no team in the division could stop. 

 

8. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Based on the hype that quarterbacks get, Manziel at No. 8 would appear to be a good value for the Vikings. He still has a lot to prove, though people who went nuts after his pro day assume that an MVP award is coming soon. 

Bottom line: The Vikings need a quarterback, and Manziel will also help sell tickets. He's not without talent, but a player of his size (6'0") who can get reckless on the field has to prove that staying healthy won't be a problem. 

 

9. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

The Bills went all-in on EJ Manuel last year and got some positive results, but 28 sacks on 306 pass attempts suggest more help is needed up front. Taylor Lewan is a big (6'7", 309 lbs), physical specimen who brings an attitude with him that can have a positive impact on everyone else. Mike Evans is also an option here, but solidifying the right tackle position is equally as important for Buffalo.

 

10. Detroit Lions (7-9): Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

After addressing wide receiver in free agency, not to mention having plenty of options later in the draft, Lions have to work on a secondary that ranked 20th in yards per attempt and 23rd in pass defense. 

Justin Gilbert is big (6'0", 202 lbs) and fast (4.37 40-yard dash) and has the ability to get after the ball after it's been thrown. Seattle has proved the value of having a big secondary that can play the ball, so look for a lot of teams to try emulating that style. 

 

11. Tennessee Titans (7-9): Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

If you like raw upside, Anthony Barr is the player for you. He's not a refined edge-rusher, to say the least, but he has done nothing but produce since moving to the defensive side of the ball at UCLA two years ago. 

The Titans need to find players up front who can create pressure, especially since they have to play Andrew Luck twice a year. Barr's ceiling is as high as anyone's in this class, but it will take time to develop. 

 

12. New York Giants (7-9): Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

If you want to know what's being said about Eric Ebron leading up to the draft, here's what Louis Riddick of ESPN tweeted about the North Carolina tight end:

Of course, that's a reference to New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. While Ebron isn't as athletic as the All-Pro, he does have a knack for making big plays thanks to excellent speed and added bulk. 

The Giants have been looking for a tight end since Eli Manning was in diapers, so having Ebron land in their lap with the No. 12 pick is too good to be true. 

 

13. St. Louis Rams (7-9): Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

Last year, the Rams added their slot wide receiver in Tavon Austin. This year they can get a true outside threat in the form of Texas A&M's Mike Evans. He's not a burner like Austin, but he has tremendous hands and leaping ability to create big plays. 

 

14. Chicago Bears (8-8): Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

The Bears took care of their need for outside pass-rushers by signing Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen. Now it's time to solidify what was by far the worst run defense in football last year. Chicago allowed 161.4 yards per game on the ground in 2013, 25 more than the next-closest team.

Aaron Donald doesn't fit the typical definition of a defensive tackle at 285 pounds, yet he constantly overpowered anyone in his way at college and dazzled with a 4.68 40 time at the combine. 

 

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

The Steelers are in need of a youth injection on the defensive side of the ball. Darqueze Dennard will fit right in with Dick LeBeau's defensive style, bringing an aggressive, physical mentality to a unit that looked slow and old at times last season. 

 

16. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

It's no secret that the Cowboys have to address their defensive line. They cut DeMarcus Ware and had just 34 sacks last season, 25th in the NFL. They could go for an edge-rusher like Auburn's Dee Ford, but this is a little too high for him. 

Timmy Jernigan isn't a sure thing by any stretch. He's been inconsistent throughout his career and doesn't have elite strength for the position. But the Florida State product is sneaky quick and has good footwork to move around slower offensive linemen. 

Eventually Jerry Jones has to make the right pick for the team instead of trying to grab all the headlines with a splashy move. 

 

17. Baltimore Ravens (8-8): Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

The Ravens invested in a safety last year, drafting Matt Elam in the first round, but they still need to find another player who can drop back in coverage to avoid giving up big plays over the top. 

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix gives John Harbaugh a lot of versatility, who can rotate him in and out with Elam. The Alabama safety is a dynamic ball hawk who can be an Ed Reed-lite type of player. 

 

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18. New York Jets (8-8): Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State

Normally a guard isn't going to go this high, but Rex Ryan has never played by the rules. He's going to do what's in the best interest of his team, which usually involves taking a defensive player. 

Geno Smith needs help up front to make use of weapons like Eric Decker on the outside. The Jets also need to get back to being more physical up front so they can run the ball effectively and take pressure off Smith's right arm, which was exposed down the stretch last year. After New York signed Chris Johnson to pair with Chris Ivory, Jackson is a logical choice in Round 1.

 

19. Miami Dolphins (8-8): Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

The Dolphins have helped their offensive line already with the addition of Branden Albert, but that's not enough to offset the losses of Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. 

Zack Martin doesn't have an elite-level ceiling, but he's polished and will play right away. He's also versatile, which would give the Dolphins options. Miami needs bodies who can keep Ryan Tannehill upright, so someone like Martin should be high on the priority list. 

 

20. Arizona Cardinals (10-6): Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

We get so caught up in measurables with the NFL draft that it's hard to forget what players do on the field. Jason Verrett doesn't look the part of a first-round cornerback at 5'9", 189 pounds, but put him in pads and he looks like a star who can read the quarterback and play the ball as well as any defensive back in this class. 

 

21. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1): Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

Michael Conroy

One reason the Packers have plateaued in recent years is an inability to create pressure up front. B.J. Raji is getting older and less effective. Clay Matthews is the only viable edge-rusher on the team, though he missed the end of last season with a thumb injury. 

Louis Nix III has been all over the map during the season and throughout the draft process, but he drew rave reviews from Russ Lande of SportsOnEarth.com for his ability to read the snap:

Consistently the first defensive linemen moving at the snap, Nix displays rare foot quickness for a 350-plus pounder. He is able to consistently get backfield penetration to disrupt run plays behind the line. Despite his initial quickness, agility and good hands, he does not rush the quarterback aggressively every snap and gets stuck on the line too often.

The Packers need an intimidator up front if they want opponents to respect what they do. Nix is also an excellent fit as a 3-4 defensive tackle and perfect for Dom Capers' scheme. 

 

22. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6): Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

Chip Kelly can add all the speed he wants on offense, but until that secondary can get stops, the Eagles aren't going to be anything more than a team that flirts with the postseason and occasionally sneaks in (see: 2013). 

Calvin Pryor is the enforcer that Kelly can plug in behind the defense to go after the ball. He also has the speed and strength to play the line and defend the run. 

 

23. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5): Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

Alex Smith will never be a great quarterback, but he can be very good with the right weapons and/or system. Jim Harbaugh and Andy Reid have figured that out the last few years, but the latter needs to bring in another outside weapon to take advantage of his quarterback's strengths. 

Brandin Cooks is small for an NFL wide receiver (5'9", 189 lbs), but makes up for it with excellent first-step quickness and the best route running of any player at the position in this draft. 

 

24. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5): Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

With the value of outside linebackers soaring in recent years, Ryan Shazier is one of the most underrated players in this class. He's not a workout warrior with great measurables, but he has a great feel for the field and a knack for finding the ball. 

 

25. San Diego Chargers (9-7): Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

Hey, an Alabama offensive lineman going in the first round! Cyrus Kouandjio is more power and intensity than polish at this point, but he's so young (20) and has such a high ceiling that getting him at this spot is a steal. 

The Chargers hit on something special last season under head coach Mike McCoy, who was able to bring out the best Philip Rivers we've ever seen. Now the team needs to keep upgrading its offensive line to make the star quarterback even better and get past Denver in the AFC West. 

 

26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis 11-5): Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Don't be shocked if the Browns have one of the best offenses in the NFL next year. They may be relying on a rookie quarterback, but with Josh Gordon on one side of the field and Marqise Lee on the other, whoever takes snaps knows he will have open receivers to throw to. 

Lee is not a burner in the traditional sense, but he has such good footwork and route-running ability that defensive backs can't keep up with him. 

 

27. New Orleans Saints (11-5): Dee Ford, DE, Auburn

Hal Yeager

Some players have a limited ceiling, but their specialty fits in perfectly with what a team needs. Dee Ford lacks the ability to be a force against the run, so his ability to speed-rush quarterbacks has to carry him in the NFL. 

Fortunately, this is a pass-happy league that covets edge-rushers. The Saints need to get more speed on the defensive line to keep up in an improving NFC South. 

 

28. Carolina Panthers (12-4): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

After letting all of Cam Newton's weapons from last year walk, the Panthers have to add impact receivers on the outside to avoid falling off a cliff. Kelvin Benjamin isn't a No. 1 receiver in the NFL because of limited speed, but you can't teach height. 

He is a nightmare for cornerbacks at 6'5", 240 pounds and built like a tight end with the hands and separating skills of a wide receiver. He will be a red-zone threat as soon as he walks in the door. 

 

29. New England Patriots (12-4): Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

The Patriots dodged a bullet when Vince Wilfork restructured his contract, but it was also a reminder that the 32-year-old is long in the tooth and left the team in a lurch after going down with a season-ending injury after four games last year. 

Ra'Shede Hageman gives New England flexibility to rotate Wilfork out and keep the big man fresh later in the year. The Minnesota defensive tackle will be the heir apparent when the All-Pro retires or gets released. 

 

30. San Francisco 49ers (12-4): Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

There doesn't seem to be a lot of urgency for the 49ers to fix their secondary, so adding a dynamic playmaker on the outside to help Colin Kaepernick's development seems like the best first-round play. 

Jim Harbaugh's offense already has Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree on the outside. Finding a quality slot receiver will really open things up for this team. 

Bill Williamson of ESPN.com noted that the 49ers' interest in free agents like Julian Edelman and Hakeem Nicks suggests they are invested in running more three-receiver sets next season:

The NFL is a league of three-receiver sets, although the 49ers did not subscribe to that theory. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the 49ers were last in the NFL using three-receiver sets in 2013. They ran three-receiver sets on just 205 snaps. Green Bay ran the most in the NFL with 817 three-receiver sets. 

Quinton Patton is another receiver that the 49ers like, but he's also had limited exposure and may not be ready to carry the torch of a No. 3 receiver full time in 2014. 

It also doesn't hurt to have an insurance policy if/when Boldin retires and Crabtree gets hurt again. 

 

31. Denver Broncos (13-3): Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

It's obvious the Broncos are all-in to win this year. They've spent more money than it seems like they had to bring in Aqib Talib, Ware, T.J. Ward and Emmanuel Sanders, just hoping it will be enough to get Peyton Manning a second championship. 

Any rookies they draft this year aren't likely to see much playing time, so Bradley Roby will be a wise pick for John Elway. The Ohio State product needs time to adjust to the speed of the NFL since he's used to attacking the ball instead of reading quarterbacks. 

 

32. Seattle Seahawks (13-3): Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State

It appeared Davante Adams' stock was going to drop following a 4.57 40-yard dash at the combine, but the Fresno State receiver rebounded nicely with a 4.47 time at the school's pro day in March. 

The Seahawks don't have many holes to worry about, so they can play with this pick. The loss of Golden Tate does make it easier for Pete Carroll to add another playmaker on the outside with the final pick of the first round. 

 

Note: All free-agent signing info according to NFL.com. All prospect height, weight and combine numbers per NFL.com.

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 


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