2014 NFL Mock Draft: Smartest Plays for Every 1st-Round GM

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistApril 11, 2014

EAST HARTFORD, CT - NOVEMBER 08:  Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Louisville Cardinals warms up prior to the game against the Connecticut Huskies at Rentschler Field on November 8, 2013 in East Hartford, Connecticut.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The 2014 NFL draft won't feature the tightly condensed structure of a Hollywood film, but it's sure to offer up enough entertainment. 

While this draft contains no Kevin Costner, we can all try our best to flood it with hackneyed narratives to keep the storylines flowing. Is Johnny Manziel some up-to-no-good hooligan or a simply misunderstood soul? Will Teddy Bridgewater plummet down the draft board because...well, I don't know why?

There are also plenty of prospects who will collect their checks doing something other than throwing the football. Offensive linemen generate no value for your fantasy football team, but they're an integral part to a well-tuned NFL offense.

General managers will have tough choices to make in New York this May. They must balance filling needs with collecting talent. They'll have to juggle safe bets with high-risk, high-reward gambles. With all of those moving parts, we won't need a Hollywood screenwriter to keep us interested on draft day.


1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Bridgewater has fallen out of favor, leaving some to wonder if the former top-pick candidate will even earn a top-five selection. Not so fast. B/R's Mike Freeman has heard otherwise, reporting that Bridgewater is "definitely still in the mix" for the No. 1 pick.

If Roger Goodell changes the rules to give NFL games a pro-day environment, then Houston should pass. But nobody was complaining about Bridgewater when he compiled a 71.0 completion percentage, 9.3 yards per attempt and 31 passing touchdowns to four interceptions while playing actual football during his junior year.


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

The Rams just took a lightning-fast wide receiver last year in Tavon Austin, but they still need more help on the offensive end. Sammy Watkins is much more of a complete package, adding a bigger body with superior hands and footwork.


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

Don't be surprised if Jadeveon Clowney is long gone by this point. Houston or St. Louis could be too tempted by his freakish athleticism to risk him blossoming somewhere else. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. views the defensive end as a once-in-a-generation find.

Devoid of talent, the Jaguars take Clowney and worry about quarterback later.


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

Manziel's schoolyard style rubs some scouts the wrong way, but this is a passer with a 68.9 completion percentage through two seasons at Texas A&M. He has the arm and athleticism to succeed in the pros, and Cleveland fans can use some excitement after years of losing. 


5. Oakland Raiders: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

Blake Bortles could also go No. 1, which makes this draft intriguing for viewers and baffling for everyone trying to predict the proper order. The Raiders take a shining to talents with the physical tools to succeed in hopes of them figuring everything else out along the way, so they'll take UCF's burly signal-caller.


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

He doesn't receive the same hype as Clowney, but Buffalo's Khalil Mack deserves it. Here's Grantland's Robert Mays' description of the pass-rushing monster, which should have Atlanta solid at No. 6.

 Every single play is ruined before it starts. Mack is destruction incarnate. He doesn’t have a position, and he doesn’t really need one. Put him anywhere on defense and watch the wreckage pile up. He’s the Division I career leader in tackles for loss and forced fumbles. He lives in backfields. He’s Von Miller all over again — a pass-rushing terror worth building an entire defense around.


7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews has become a fun pre-draft debate, but the Buccaneers would do just fine snagging either one at pick No. 7. Robinson may need a tad more polishing than Matthews, but he's too talented to pass up as the draft's top offensive tackle.


8. Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

While he's not on the same level as Clowney and Mack, Anthony Barr is another wrecking machine capable of devouring quarterbacks throughout his NFL career. He has some work to do in pass coverage, but Minnesota will derive mileage out of him as a bull-rusher.


9. Buffalo Bills: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Matthews won't have to wait much longer once a team secures Robinson. The Bills allowed 48 sacks last season and led the league in rushing attempts, so upgrading their offensive line makes plenty of sense at pick No. 9.


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

Rather than enhancing a strength at wide receiver, the Lions should turn their attention to the secondary and take the draft's top cornerback, Justin Gilbert. He glues on to opposing wideouts and displays the hands, hops and wheels to create some points on defense for Detroit.


11. Tennessee Titans: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

Despite eating up ball-carriers for four years at Alabama, C.J. Mosley has fallen out of favor during the offseason. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah, via NFL.com's Bryan Fischer, has a theory to explain Mosley's sinking draft stock: He's too consistently solid for his own good.

"His instincts set him apart from everybody else in this draft class. Sometimes he's so good that he's kind of boring," Jeremiah said on Path to the Draft. "You don't see those 'wow' plays because he's where he needs to be and makes a lot of tackles."


12. New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

Once a premier passing attack, the Giants faltered in 2013 with just 224.3 passing yards per game. They finally close a revolving door at tight end by grabbing Eric Ebron, who gives Eli Manning a lethal weapon to rejuvenate his stumbling offense.


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

Let's see how much the NFL West is laughing when Ha Ha Clinton-Dix bolsters St. Louis' secondary, making the league's toughest division even tougher. With a major piece added to aid the pass and stop the other team's aerial assault, the Rams are looking good after Round 1.


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

Remember when the Bears personified defensive fortitude? You know, before offenses decimated them through the ground and ignited another late-season meltdown. Adding Timmy Jernigan up the middle is the first step to fixing their dreadful run defense.


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

Let's return to Grantland's Mays, who thinks Mike Evans deserves even better than his Vincent Jackson player comparison, which is still great company for an incoming rookie.

The first NFL comparison everyone makes for Evans is Vincent Jackson, which makes sense. Both are rangy, ball-snatching monsters. But when I saw Evans making long strides, tearing up grass on short screens and slants, I instantly thought of how the Bears used Alshon Jeffery last year. Jeffery came into the league with the same knocks. Even if the top-end speed was there, he wasn’t sudden enough to get separation from defenders. What Jeffery showed last season is that he didn’t really need it. Just throw it up. He’ll go get it.

Sound good, Ben Roethlisberger? In fact, some fans might be drawing up angry emails to GMs now for not hypothetically taking Evans earlier.


16. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

The Cowboys defense was bad last year. This is where you ask how bad. The Cowboys defense was so bad last year that it ranked last with 415.3 yards per game. Aaron Donald is no sure remedy, but he's a special defensive tackle who offers a rare breed of athleticism up the middle.


17. Baltimore Ravens: Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame

Baltimore's debilitated offense could not accomplish much last year, but some more time in the pocket could increase Joe Flacco's chances of converting some deep strikes. After suiting up for every game during his four years at Notre Dame, Zack Martin is ready to bring that dependability to the NFL.


18. New York Jets: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Rex Ryan is going to explode if the Jets don't get him a cornerback, so let's give him Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard and slowly walk away. This quote from the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta shows how much onus Ryan places on two positions, both of which Gang Green is lacking.


19. Miami Dolphins: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Due to his unsettled assault charges, Michigan's Taylor Lewan falls down to the second half of the opening round. Desperate for offensive line help, the Dolphins take the plunge at pick No. 19. 


20. Arizona Cardinals: Jason Verrett, CB, VCU

The Cardinals add more fire to their secondary with Jason Verrett, another guy who can make skeptics feel foolish for worrying about his size. Arizona is a great landing spot for Verrett, who can shut down slot receivers with Patrick Peterson locking down a sideline.


21. Green Bay PackersCalvin Pryor, S, Louisville

The Packers yielded 7.8 passing yards per attempt last season, and their safeties did little to curb those troubles. Calvin Pryor will break up plays and bruise some bodies in the process with bone-crushing hits, adding a much-needed element of fear to Green Bay's secondary.


22. Philadelphia Eagles: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

Even after releasing DeSean Jackson, defense is the way to go for one of the league's most decrepit units. All 331 pounds of Louis Nix III can spruce up Philly's sluggish efforts in hopes of matching the offense's boundless production.


23. Kansas City Chiefs: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

The dude is fast, and Kansas City can use a fast dude who can get open and create plays for Alex Smith. Brandin Cooks, who ran the NFL Scouting Combine's second-fastest 40-yard dash, would work perfectly as Andy Reid's slot receiver for a team that puts too much weight on Jamaal Charles' shoulders.


24. Cincinnati Bengals: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

Too early for Kony Ealy? It could be too late if the freakish pass-rusher reaches a sizable fraction of his upside. Cincinnati will clasp its claws around the Missouri defensive end and hope he doesn't wilt under the pro spotlight.


25. San Diego Chargers: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

Last year, the Chargers ranked fourth in passing offense, 13th in rushing offense, 12th in rushing defense and 29th in passing defense. See where this is going? Secondary is the obvious weak link, and Bradley Roby is a gifted cornerback capable of lifting its pass coverage from the cellar. 


26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis): Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Cleveland could take a new receiver as a present for Manziel or maybe gift its new quarterback with an offensive lineman. But Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller is sitting there, and the Browns can use a No. 2 cornerback, especially after downgrading from T.J. Ward to Donte Whitner at safety. 


27. New Orleans Saints: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

An all-time poor defense in 2012, the Saints finished 2013 as the NFL's second-best passing defense, but they were below average against the run at No. 19. Ra'Shede Hageman carries a hefty plate of risk, but the defensive tackle may also very well turn into one of the draft's top steals.


28. Carolina Panthers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Did anybody else realize the Panthers have a glaring need for some wide receivers? Oh, apparently everyone other than the Panthers figured it out. Well, have no fear: Quite a few worthy names should still be here for their first-round selection. (I know, I got to end it on the rhyme). While Marqise Lee's lackluster junior year creates some concern, he would have been gone a long time ago if not for his ugly, injury-plagued season.


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

He's listed as a tight end, and he certainly possesses a tight end's frame at 6'5" and 265 pounds. Yet Jace Amaro was essentially a receiver at Texas Tech, a tactic that has become commonplace among dangerous NFL players at his position. Catching passes from Tom Brady in Bill Belichick's scheme would make Amaro a star.


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

After Watkins and Evans, scouts differ greatly on their No. 3 wide receiver. With so many choices, somebody is going to inevitably slip through the cracks to make room for everyone else. In this mock, Odell Beckham Jr. nearly falls outside the first round before San Francisco saves him, giving him a great home to eventually become a starter on a perennial Super Bowl contender.


31. Denver Broncos: David Yankey, OG, Stanford

Exhausted from their free-agent spending spree, the Broncos skip over the flashier selections to take Stanford's David Yankey, who can immediately replace Zane Beadles as their starting guard. No need to light the world up with every personnel move.


32. Seattle Seahawks: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA

In the same boat as Denver, Seattle eschews the big-name prospects for an abrupt upgrade on the offensive line. Xavier Su'a-Filo, the first round's second-best name after Clinton Dix, has a big fan in Sports Illustrated's Doug Farrar.

As if the Seahawks don't already have enough talent.


All height, weight and combine information courtesy of NFL.com.


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