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2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated Round 1 Projections

Cody SwartzSenior Writer IApril 19, 2014

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated Round 1 Projections

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    John Bazemore

    With just three weeks before the NFL draft, the outlook on draft day remains as unclear as ever.

    How the Houston Texans approach their first overall selection will affect the ensuing picks; new head coach Bill O'Brien will have the opportunity to choose from stud pass-rushing specialist Jadeveon Clowney or a potential franchise quarterback.

    It will be interesting to see where the quarterbacks go in the draft. Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr all could go in the top five picks, or they could fall out of the first round altogether. Last year saw just one quarterback selected in the first round, but glaring needs at that position by a handful of teams could vault some signal-callers higher than expected.

    It’s said to be the deepest draft ever, and there’s plenty of talent to be seen. You will see a few trades thrown in here, meaning it is not a traditional mock draft, but these trades make too much sense to ignore.

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

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    The Houston Texans haven't leaked any clues as to whom they will pick first overall, but passing on a once-in-a-lifetime talent like Jadeveon Clowney would be a mistake in a class that lacks elite quarterbacks.

    There are definitely some concerns about him—he saw a notable drop in his performance last year, and he was surprisingly weak in the bench press. But his physical tools could make him one of the greatest to every put on a uniform.

    He displayed 4.53 speed in the 40-yard dash. He has as quick of a first step as you'll ever see. Whether he lines up as a 5-technique end or a 3-4 outside linebacker, Clowney would make up an unstoppable duo with J.J. Watt for Bill O'Brien.

    Clowney has a supreme blend of power and speed, leading to a bull rush that will trouble even the most experienced offensive tackles. He dropped off in 2013 (three sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss) after a dynamic 2012 campaign (13 sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss), but that was more due to what some, like Bucky Brooks of NFL.com, perceived to be lack of effort in an attempt to stay healthy.

    In terms of raw athleticism and ability though, Clowney is the most talented player in the draft. He's a once-in-a-generation player who could be just what the Texans need in a division with a standout quarterback in Andrew Luck.

2. Atlanta Falcons (via Trade): Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

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    The ideal scenario for St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead is that he finds a suitor who is willing to trade up to the second overall selection. This is the pick the team got in the Robert Griffin III trade, and while it's a tremendous spot to own in any draft, this year's class is deep enough that trading down several spots and acquiring an extra pick would be worth it.

    The Atlanta Falcons' ideal scenario has to be either trading up for Jadeveon Clowney, but if he goes first, the team will make a move for Khalil Mack.

    He is a 4-3 rush linebacker in the mold of Von Miller, and he's the pass-rushing presence that the Falcons need to make trouble for Cam Newton and Drew Brees.

    If the Falcons do employ more of a 3-4 defense next season, Mack is the outside ‘backer they need to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. He can get to the quarterback, stop the run and even drop back into coverage, and he has a chance to be the next Miller.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

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    Seeing as Gus Bradley is a defensive-minded football coach, he has to be hoping Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack is available when the Jacksonville Jaguars pick third overall.

    With both off the board, a quarterback like Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel is too much of a reach. Bradley did a fine job of building up the defense through free agency, so he can take the top offensive player on the board.

    Sammy Watkins is a standout wide receiver with the physical tools to be an elite player in no time. The Jaguars may be without currently suspended receiver Justin Blackmon, but if he does return, he and Watkins would become arguably a top receiving duo in the league.

    Watkins posted 101 catches, 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013 without DeAndre Hopkins opposite him (Hopkins was a first-round pick in 2013). At 6'1", Watkins doesn't have elite size, but he's polished, ready to contribute as a rookie and as dangerous a weapon as there is with the ball in his hands. Should the team go with Chad Henne for another season, Watkins will make the passing game much more formidable.

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

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    The Cleveland Browns have two first-round picks in the draft thanks to the trade that sent Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts. The best move for new head coach Mike Pettine would be to draft the best player available at No. 4 and target a quarterback with the 26th selection.

    But I don’t see him passing on Johnny Manziel. The fact that the Browns didn’t attend his pro day doesn’t mean they won’t take him; it was likely a convenient smokescreen to make it appear as if they’re not interested.

    In fact, don’t be surprised if Cleveland even trades up to guarantee getting Manziel. The Browns are working him out this weekend and have to be interested in a long-term solution at the position, considering they have just Brian Hoyer right now.

    Manziel will be nothing if not exciting. He’s either going to change the game or be a complete bust, although that leaves a lot of room in between. With Hoyer as Cleveland’s current starting quarterback, Manziel would be given every opportunity to start in Week 1. He will inherit an offense that lacks an ideal running game but a receiving corps that includes Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron.

5. Minnesota Vikings (via Trade): Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

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    The Minnesota Vikings made a mistake when they reached for quarterback Christian Ponder with the 12th pick in the 2011 NFL draft. But it wouldn't be a reach if Central Florida’s Blake Bortles is still on the board, and they may trade up to acquire him. He has the highest upside of the quarterbacks, starting with his sturdy 6'4" frame.

    He may need a year of polishing before he’s ready to take over, which would allow Matt Cassel another year of starting. But if Cassel struggles, the Vikings may turn to Bortles. After all, they’re the only team in the NFC North without a franchise quarterback.

    In this scenario, joining an offense that features Adrian Peterson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings and a talented offensive line would make Bortles’ job easier. Norv Turner was instrumental in developing Philip Rivers in San Diego, and he gets a potential franchise player in Bortles.

6. St. Louis Rams (via Trade): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

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    Should this scenario play out, the St. Louis Rams would have a dream situation. Greg Robinson has the higher upside and purer athleticism over Jake Matthews, and he also fills an immense position of need for the Rams.

    Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long played very well in his debut season in St. Louis before he suffered a torn ACL and MCL in December. He may not be at full strength in September. Free agent Rodger Saffold nearly left for Oakland but re-signed and could be used to play tackle or guard.

    The hole at left guard suggests Saffold could play there, with Robinson manning the right tackle position. He is a freak athlete for his size, posting a 4.92 40-yard dash and 35 repetitions of 225 pounds in the bench press. He's an absolute beast as a run-blocker, regularly taking on linebackers at the second level.

    He's not the playmaking wide receiver that the Rams still need, but he has the ability to be one of the game's most dominant offensive linemen in just a few short years. For a team with an up-and-coming young running back in Zac Stacy, he’s the ideal pick.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could target a quarterback with the seventh overall pick, although adding another player to a position that includes Josh McCown and Mike Glennon may be overkill. The addition of offensive tackle Anthony Collins suggests they won't target the blind-side position.

    Selecting Mike Evans would help McCown succeed in 2014; Vincent Jackson and Evans would duplicate the receiver duo that McCown had in Chicago with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Evans is a 6’5” playmaker with the ability to come down with contested catches.

    If Evans isn’t available, the Buccaneers could go with the best player available. Aaron Donald is a pass-rushing force from the interior line. Jake Matthews would also warrant strong consideration. And an edge-rusher like Khalil Mack would be a lock, should he be on the board.

8. Oakland Raiders (via Trade): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

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    General manager Reggie McKenzie's approach thus far this spring has been confusing. While the Oakland Raiders won their usual four games in 2013, he is building the roster like he believes the team is on the verge of competing.

    Oakland has signed a number of aging free agents, including Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Donald Penn and Maurice Jones-Drew. Most notably has been the perplexing trade for benched Houston Texans' quarterback Matt Schaub, a seemingly washed-up quarterback who set an NFL record by throwing a pick-six in four consecutive games a year ago.

    The Raiders seem committed to him for this season, so what they do need to do is surround him with the best player possible on the offensive side of the ball. At this point, Jake Matthews is a steal and fills a position of need.

    Penn was signed to play left tackle, so Matthews could be eased in at right tackle. Football is in Matthews’ bloodlines, and he’s viewed as one of the safest picks in the draft. He will go a long way to establishing relevance again in Oakland.

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

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    Regardless of what you think of Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel, the team spent a 2013 first-round pick on him. They have to do everything possible to see if he's their future franchise guy.

    Surrounding him with a potentially elite tight end is a good move with Jake Matthews off the board. Scott Chandler has been just mediocre, and the Bills don’t have a tight end who can line up in the slot and cause mismatch problems for opposing defenses.

    Ebron is undersized at 6’4” and 250 pounds, but in the slot, he's too fast for linebackers to cover and too big for cornerbacks or safeties. He racked up an ACC-record 973 yards last year at North Carolina, and tight ends traditionally have a fairly easy transition to the next level.

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

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    Improve the defense in Detroit seems logical with Mike Evans off the board, although don’t rule out the Lions trading up for him or Sammy Watkins.

    Chris Houston was the only Detroit cornerback to record an interception last year. Up-and-coming free safety Louis Delmas was a cap release, and adding James Ihedigbo on a two-year deal doesn’t mean the safety position is filled.

    Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was a ball hawk in college, recording eight interceptions in his final two seasons. He was a 2013 Second-Team All-American selection, and he’s widely considered the top overall safety in the draft. He should be penciled in as a Week 1 starter, and he will make Aaron Rodgers’ job a little bit tougher.

11. Tennessee Titans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

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    Tennessee could go a number of different ways with this selection. New head coach Ken Whisenhunt doesn’t seem enamored with quarterback Jake Locker, and Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater is still on the board here. A nose tackle like Louis Nix III would plug the middle in the new 3-4 defense, and a cornerback like Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard could soften the loss of Alterraun Verner via free agency.

    Because of the success Whisenhunt had with Kurt Warner in Arizona, he knows the value of a quality quarterback. Locker has not proved to be that guy, and I think Whisenhunt will pull the trigger on a consummate professional like Bridgewater.

    He was the consensus best overall quarterback following the 2013 season, and one poor pro-day performance shouldn’t knock him out of the first round. Matt Miller’s most recent mock draft still projects Bridgewater as the top quarterback chosen, having him being selected third overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    The Titans can’t compete with the Indianapolis Colts unless they add their own franchise quarterback. Bridgewater is the best bet at No. 11 to become that guy.

12. New York Giants: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

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    For the New York Giants to get back to their Super Bowl days, they will need to revamp the unit that twice beat the New England Patriots on the NFL’s biggest stage—and that’s the defensive line.

    At this point, Pittsburgh pass-rushing sensation Aaron Donald may be the ideal move. He put up insane numbers in 2013, posting an NCAA-best 28.5 tackles for loss, plus 11 sacks and four forced fumbles. He’s undersized but absolutely exploded off the line of scrimmage.

    Per Rotoworld's Greg Peshek, Donald spent the majority of his snaps lined up as a tackle directly over either the left guard or right guard. That makes him an ideal fit as a tackle in a 4-3 scheme, and he’s talented enough to replace the void left when Linval Joseph departed for Minnesota.

13. St. Louis Rams: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

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    With Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix off the board, Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert is the next-best defensive back. He’s a talented cover corner who solidified his stock as an upper first-round selection by posting a 4.37 time in the 40-yard dash.

    He led all college cornerbacks with seven interceptions in 2013. Should he join the St. Louis Rams, he would play behind a front seven that already ranks as one of the best in the business. The constant pressure the Rams will get from Robert Quinn and Chris Long should make life easier for Gilbert, who would start opposite future Pro Bowler Janoris Jenkins.

    Gilbert will ease the loss of Cortland Finnegan, a highly paid corner who was released after a dismal ’13 campaign. Adding Gilbert will give the Rams a defense that can hold its own against any of the other NFC West rosters.

14. Chicago Bears: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

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    The days of the Chicago Bears featuring one of the NFL’s toughest defenses are long gone. This unit surrendered 478 points and more than 6,300 total yards in 2013, rating 30th in the league in both statistics. The run defense ranked dead last in rushing yards allowed per attempt, and the defensive line already lost tackle Henry Melton via free agency.

    New additions like Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen will fortify the pass rush off the edge, but the Bears still need a presence on the inside. If Aaron Donald happens to fall, he’s a slam-dunk pick. But Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman is no consolation prize; he’s a terrific prospect who would start as a rookie at the 3-technique tackle.

    He has the size to cause trouble for opposing guards and centers. Per CBS Sports, he draws comparisons to J.J. Watt for his amazing athletic ability. He’s physically imposing and could be the worst nightmare of NFC North quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers have missed the playoffs two years running, and they will need to get much younger on the defensive side of the ball. General manager Kevin Colbert led the Steelers to a pair of Super Bowl championships largely because of the frightening defense he established—led by Troy Polamalu, Casey Hampton and James Harrison.

    Longtime corner Ike Taylor is still there, but he took a pay cut after a disappointing 2013 campaign that saw him surrender a league-worst 1,043 passing yards, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    Adding a top corner opposite Taylor is a must; Michigan’s State Darqueze Dennard was a three-year starter and team captain. He was a unanimous First-Team All-American selection a year ago and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back. He’s a good bet to improve a Steelers secondary that rated just 29th in interceptions in 2013.

16. Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA

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    The Dallas Cowboys have no choice but to improve a defensive line that was decimated in free agency. The team saw seven-time Pro Bowl edge-rusher DeMarcus Ware leave for Denver and interior rusher Jason Hatcher leave for Washington. In addition, Anthony Spencer remains unsigned following microfracture knee surgery.

    If the season started today, Dallas would be rushing the quarterback with George Selvie and Jeremy Mincey, a duo that wouldn’t scare anyone. The Cowboys have expressed interest in UCLA’s Anthony Barr, and Barr has said he thinks he can play in a 4-3 scheme.

    He is a converted running back who has only played linebacker for two seasons, but he has a high enough upside to warrant a selection in the top half of the first round. He racked up 10 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and an NCAA-high six forced fumbles in 2013. He may struggle at first, but in the long run, he has the skills to be a force in the NFL.

17. Baltimore Ravens: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

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    The Baltimore Ravens don’t have any pressing needs despite missing the playoffs in 2013. Quarterback Joe Flacco is signed to a mega long-term deal, and general manager Ozzie Newsome will need to protect his QB as much as possible for the team to return to the postseason next year.

    Former first-round offensive tackle Michael Oher left for Tennessee (although his skills had really diminished anyway), and the team doesn’t have an ideal solution to the right tackle hole for now. If Michigan’s Taylor Lewan slips a little following his offseason legal troubles, he would be a tremendous pickup at No. 17.

    He is a monster of a man at 6’7”, which may lead some in the organization to think he can be the next Jonathan Ogden. Lewan draws comparisons to Jake Long, a former No. 1 overall pick who was a Pro Bowler upon entering the league. With Eugene Monroe signed to play the left side, Lewan will see an easier transition to the NFL by playing on the right side.

18. New York Jets: Xavier Su’a-Filo, G, UCLA

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    Alex Gallardo

    Since drafting Mark Sanchez in the first round in 2009, Rex Ryan has made five straight defensive players his first-round selection. That still could be the case this spring, as the New York Jets once again need a cornerback after losing Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie in back-to-back offseasons.

    But the offense was so treacherous in 2013 that this has to be Ryan’s pick. For quarterbacks Geno Smith and Michael Vick to succeed, the offensive line has to get bigger. The team looks to be relying heavily on the running game for next season, as they added Chris Johnson to a backfield that already includes Chris Ivory (with Vick being a threat to run too).

    A top offensive lineman like Xavier Su’a-Filo, who is generally considered to be the best interior offensive lineman, would likely start in Week 1. Willie Colon isn’t the long-term answer, and Brian Winters struggled as a rookie, rating 77th among 81 guards by Pro Football Focus.

    Su’a-Filo is strong and physical, and he’s going to push around the opposing defensive tackles as an asset in the running game. He would be both a value pick and fill a position of need at the 18th overall selection.

19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT/G, Notre Dame

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    The Miami Dolphins need all the offensive line help they can get after last season's debacle. In fact, they could put forth an entirely different offensive line next season; they’ve already added two new starters in Branden Albert and Shelley Smith.

    Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin would be a solid addition at No. 19. He started four years as a tackle in college but may be better-suited as a guard in the NFL, where he won’t have to handle the fastest speed-rushers.

    If he's off the board, the team would be best-suited to wait until the second round to add an offensive tackle like Cyrus Kouandjio or Morgan Moses.

20. Arizona Cardinals: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

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    Michael Conroy

    Don’t rule out the possibility of Arizona trading up (or back) for a quarterback. Carson Palmer is only signed through 2015, but the structure of his contract suggests he likely won’t be back after next season.

    The Cardinals could conceivably go a handful of different ways. The offensive line could use another interior player, tight end Eric Ebron would be a fine addition if he’s available, a pass-rushing linebacker is needed, and the secondary could benefit from an upgrade even with the signing of cornerback Antonio Cromartie.

    With Louisville’s Calvin Pryor still on the board, he’s a default pick by virtue of being the best player available. He is an intimidator who could see his stock rise because he’s comparable to Super Bowl champion Kam Chancellor of the Seattle Seahawks. Pryor will assuredly get flagged for a cheap shot or two, but he has the physical tools and confidence to set the tone on defense.

21. Green Bay Packers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

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    Recent Ted Thompson first-round picks haven’t been flashy players; rather, he’s opted for offensive and defensive linemen like Derek Sherrod, Nick Perry, Bryan Bulaga and Datone Jones. If Calvin Pryor happens to slip to No. 22, he would be a fantastic addition to a team that really lacks quality safeties, but in this scenario, he’s gone.

    USC’s Marqise Lee is a quality wide receiver and goes to the Green Bay Packers as the best player available. They did lose James Jones in free agency, and it doesn’t appear as if tight end Jermichael Finley will be retained by the organization.

    Lee was a likely top-five overall selection heading into this past season; his decline in performance coincided with Matt Barkley’s graduation to the NFL. Lee has struggled with injuries, but he’s a polished route-runner who should put up good numbers even as a rookie, because he will be playing with Aaron Rodgers in a pass-happy offense.

22. San Francisco 49ers (via Trade): Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

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    Look for the San Francisco 49ers to target a player they want and trade up for him. General manager Trent Baalke wasn’t shy about pulling the trigger for safety Eric Reid a year ago, swapping first-round picks with the Dallas Cowboys to move from the 31st selection to the 18th spot.

    With underrated wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. falling past the Green Bay Packers at the 21st selection, the Niners make their move with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have just six draft picks and are probably willing to trade down for the right price.

    Adding Beckham to the 49ers would give Colin Kaepernick another weapon in the passing game. Michael Crabtree should be at full health again by 2014 following Achilles and ankle injuries. Anquan Boldin was re-signed to a two-year deal, but he’s entering his 12th season and can’t be relied on to be productive for too many more years.

    Beckham is an explosive punt returner too who could take over, should the Niners trade or release LaMichael James.

23. Kansas City Chiefs: David Yankey, G, Stanford

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    Andy Reid remains a man of predictability, which suggests he will target his usual positions in the first round—offensive line, defensive line or wide receiver. He has picked four consecutive first-round linemen to date, and that remains a possibility heading into the 2014 draft.

    The Kansas City Chiefs lost starting guards Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah; both were prominent interior linemen. Replacing those two should be the team’s biggest priority, especially considering last year’s first overall pick Eric Fisher hasn’t done much to help the offensive line.

    David Yankey was a three-year starter and two-time All-American who played at both left tackle and left guard. He’s a road-grader who projects to be a similar player to Ben Grubbs.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

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    The Cincinnati Bengals don’t have any glaring needs heading into this year’s draft, which puts them in a position to choose the best player available. Cornerback is likely the biggest area of weakness, and Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller would be an idea selection at No. 24.

    Pro Bowl cornerback Leon Hall suffered a torn Achilles injury (his second in his NFL career). Terence Newman and Adam "Pacman" Jones are 35 and 30 years old, respectively. Dre Kirkpatrick is struggling to shed the bust label that goes with being a 2012 first-round pick who hasn’t yet produced.

    Fuller would push for a starting job right away. He’s extremely versatile, having played linebacker and safety in addition to cornerback at Virginia Tech. At 6'0", he is undersized but a great natural cover guy with good ball skills.

25. San Diego Chargers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

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    The San Diego Chargers could use an upgrade on the defensive side of the ball. Cornerback is a glaring need, especially after the way free-agent bust Derek Cox played in 2013. And a quality nose tackle like Louis Nix III would make life much easier for the defense.

    But with speedy receiver Brandin Cooks still on the board, he would become another weapon in the passing game for Philip Rivers. The San Diego quarterback all but revived his NFL career last year under Mike McCoy, turning into an MVP candidate for the playoff-bound Chargers. He has a future All-Pro in Keenan Allen and two quality tight ends in Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green.

    Cooks has game-breaking speed, and he’s fast enough to keep opposing safeties honest. He can take the top off a defense, which in turn would open up underneath routes for Allen, Gates and Green.

26. Cleveland Browns: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

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    Michael Conroy

    After taking Johnny Manziel at the fourth selection, Cleveland management would be wise to continue to improve the offense surrounding him. Tight end Eric Ebron is off the board, so a wide receiver to pair with Josh Gordon would make life easier for Johnny Football.

    Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews should be a first-round talent, and it’s likely some team will view him that way on draft day. He is 6’3”, 210 pounds and runs a 4.46 40-yard dash. He posted an impressive 21 reps on the bench press and put up a vertical leap of 35-plus inches.

    He holds the SEC all-time record for career receptions and receiving yards, and he happens to be Jerry Rice’s cousin. That and a need for a receiver to replace Greg Little in Cleveland suggest Matthews may go in the first round.

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

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    The New Orleans Saints are in a good position to sit back and take the best player available when they make their first-round pick. Both Pro Bowl guards are on the wrong side of 30 years old, while center Brian de la Puente left for Chicago. Should a top guard be available, the Saints could choose to upgrade this position.

    Improving Rob Ryan’s defense may be ideal, though. He took a unit that ranked 32nd in the league in yards in 2012 and turned it into the fourth-best unit in the game last season. C.J. Mosley would play inside linebacker, competing with Curtis Lofton or David Hawthorne for a starting spot.

    Mosley has a college resume to brag about: two All-American selections, a Freshman All-American selection, an SEC Defensive Player of the Year award and two national championship game appearances, plus the coveted Butkus Award for his status as the nation’s top linebacker last year.

    Alabama linebackers haven’t always translated well to the NFL—Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw are just mediocre—but Mosley is a value pick this late in the first round.

28. Carolina Panthers: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

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    The Carolina Panthers have a glaring need at both offensive tackle positions and wide receiver; they need to draft the best possible player at those positional groups. Virginia’s Morgan Moses comes from a school that is known for producing great offensive tackles—D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Eugene Monroe were both top-10 picks who are locked in as franchise players.

    Moses played right tackle in college and would likely do so in the NFL, but he did spend his final year at Virginia on the left side. He is 6’6”, 315 pounds, with extremely long arms. He may not be Jordan Gross quite yet, but the shocking retirement of Gross justifies a first-round pick on Moses.

29. New England Patriots: Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame

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    Bill Belichick is a big fan of trading down, and that may be the case here. There are a handful of second-round tight ends who could go around pick 40, and they may get his interest. The New England Patriots should be viewed as a deep sleeper for a first-round quarterback, and there’s a good chance as well they select a receiver.

    In this case though, Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III is still on the board, and he’s by far the best player available. The Patriots managed to re-work veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork’s contract to the tune of three years for $22 million, but a closer look at the details reveals he signed a one-year deal and nothing more.

    Nix is a massive nose tackle who could take over Wilfork’s role. The Patriots run a 4-3, so technically Nix would be needed as a 3-technique tackle, but he has the sheer size and athleticism to line up directly over the center and demand double-teams. He is listed at 340 pounds, and the only concern about him is that he required knee surgery last season for a torn meniscus.

30. Philadelphia Eagles (via Trade): Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn

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    General manager Howie Roseman seems to have inherited the Andy Reid way of drafting in that he makes the offensive or defensive line a priority. Since taking Jeremy Maclin in the first round in the 2009 draft, the Philadelphia Eagles have taken a lineman every year—Brandon Graham, Danny Watkins, Fletcher Cox and Lane Johnson.

    The 2014 club will definitely be seeking a wide receiver, given the departure of DeSean Jackson, but it’s such a deep receiver class that it would be wise to improve this position in the middle rounds. Given Trent Cole’s age (31), a pass-rushing linebacker should be one of the top priorities. Look for Roseman to target a trade down and grab a linebacker with his first pick.

    Auburn’s Dee Ford is the top-rated pass-rusher still on the board, and he can play in a 3-4 scheme. He picked up 10.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss in 2013 and said he can be as good as Jadeveon Clowney. At 6'2", 252 pounds, he’s slightly undersized, but if he can get to the quarterback, he’s worth a first-round pick.

31. Denver Broncos: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

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    The Denver Broncos are in a good enough position that they won’t need instant production from their 2014 first-round draft pick. Left guard Zane Beadles departed for Jacksonville, which could lead to a guard like David Yankey or Xavier Su’a-Filo (although both were already taken in this mock).

    Another pass-rusher would help with Von Miller rehabbing from a torn ACL, although the team did add seven-time Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware from the Dallas Cowboys. The biggest area of need may be cornerback, with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Champ Bailey gone and Chris Harris rehabbing from a torn ACL as well (although Aqib Talib was a nice addition).

    TCU’s Jason Verrett is a great selection in that he is a physical corner who would likely play the nickel role for the Broncos. He was the Big-12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year. He ran a 4.38 40-yard dash and plays a physical style of football. Because of his limited size at 5'9", he may be best-suited as the slot corner.

32. Seattle Seahawks: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

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    In this case, the rich just get richer. Fresh off a Super Bowl title, the Seattle Seahawks add another talented player to their defensive line in defensive end Kony Ealy.

    He was a prime reason that teammate Michael Sam won SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, as Ealy drew the focal point of the blocking and still managed to record eight sacks, 14 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.

    He has great size to play the 7-technique role, as he checks in at 6’5” and 275 pounds, although he could play a hybrid outside linebacker role as well. If Ealy is not available, Seattle could stand to add a bigger receiver like Allen Robinson or a playmaking tight end like Jace Amaro.

     

    All NFL Scouting Combine numbers are per NFL.com.

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