2014 NFL Mock Draft: Where Each Team Will Get Stronger with Round 1 Pick

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2014 NFL Mock Draft: Where Each Team Will Get Stronger with Round 1 Pick
Michael Conroy

The purpose of the NFL draft is to make bad teams good and keep the good teams in the postseason. If only things were that simple, right?

There are 32 teams who believe they have the perfect answer to their problems at this year's draft, yet this whole ordeal is such a crapshoot that even the surest of sure things comes with significant risk. 

The key to success in the draft is identifying the weakest area of a team and adding an impact player at the position. Sometimes everything lines up perfectly for a club, with the need and value at a given pick matching up. 

In our latest mock draft, we will explore where teams will get stronger in 2014 and beyond. 

 

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

Jadeveon Clowney can play two positions for the Houston Texans, defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker making him instantly more valuable than a player like University of Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. Combine that with insane athleticism and blazing speed and you have a superstar in every conceivable way. 

 

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

The Rams have given Sam Bradford weapons to play with on the outside. Now they need to give their quarterback an offensive line that allows him to use those toys. Greg Robinson isn't a sexy player, but he gives this St. Louis team exactly what it needs to take the next step on offense. 

 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12): Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Mike Groll

Jacksonville's second-year head coach Gus Bradley has taken some steps to remake this defense in the image of the one he used to have as defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks. 

The final piece of the puzzle, at least in the front seven, is to add a playmaking edge-rusher who can also drop back in coverage. Mack is clearly on Jacksonville's radar leading up to the draft. 

Some will say that the Jaguars have to address the quarterback position, but there's no need to reach for someone this early when there is value in the second and third round. Mack gives the Jags an impact defender and allows them to address other areas of need later on. 

 

4. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Quarterback Brian Hoyer showed enough last year to warrant another shot at starting before the Browns turn their offense over to a better long-term solution. Sammy Watkins makes Hoyer's life easier for next season, not to mention the immense potential this offense gets by pairing the Clemson wideout with Josh Gordon. 

 

5. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

The Raiders have actually done one smart thing this offseason: adding Matt Schaub. He's not going to bring the franchise out of the abyss it's been in for a decade, but he does buy insurance for 2014 while a rookie quarterback develops. 

Blake Bortles isn't a surefire franchise quarterback, but has the size, accuracy and touch to be a quality starter for a decade. He will need time to learn before starting, which is why Schaub's presence is invaluable. 

 

6. Atlanta Falcons (4-12): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Even though edge-rusher is a bigger need for Atlanta, there isn't one worthy of being taken at this spot. It's not like the Falcons are devoid of talent, one year removed from an NFC Championship Game appearance and getting Julio Jones back healthy, so they have freedom to take the best player available. 

 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12): Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

David J. Phillip

If we learned anything about Josh McCown last year, it's that he's fantastic with two big, physical wide receivers on the outside who can go up and get the ball. (Yes, most quarterbacks would thrive in that situation.)

Even with a volatile quarterback situation last year, Vincent Jackson still had over 1,200 yards, seven touchdowns and averaged 15.7 yards per catch. Imagine what he can do with the playmaking machine that is Mike Evans on the other side of the field. 

In a comment sure to endear himself to McCown, Evans actually compared himself to a Chicago Bears receiver the quarterback knew very well last year. 

The Buccaneers need to get more explosive in the passing game. Evans can stretch a defense in ways that only Watkins can match in this year's draft. 

 

8. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville 

If you believe in on-field performance and savvy as an indicator of future success, Teddy Bridgewater should be an easy pick to make. He dazzled at Louisville, increasing his completion percentage in each of his three seasons as a starter and has excellent accuracy on short and intermediate routes. 

The Vikings are also in a position to allow Bridgewater to develop for a year because Matt Cassel can manage the offense until he's ready to take over. 

 

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

Is there a more appropriate fit in the first round than the Buffalo Bills and Taylor Lewan? He is a big, nasty, physical offensive lineman who can protect second-year quarterback EJ Manuel, not to mention open holes for C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. 

 

10. Detroit Lions (7-9): Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

For the Lions to take the next step, they need to get more physical in the secondary. Cornerback may be in play here, but Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the best defensive back in this class. He gives the team an enforcer who can get after the ball and play on the line when it's needed. 

 

11. Tennessee Titans (7-9): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

The Titans face a dilemma with quarterback Jake Locker getting more expensive and entering what could be a contract year, if the choose not to exercise his option for 2015. Their decision will be easier if they can land a player like Johnny Manziel. Given the lack of elite quarterbacks in this class, it seems like one of Bortles, Bridgewater and Manziel falls out of the top 10. 

 

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

Losing Hakeem Nicks does make New York's passing game weaker, but it can be offset with the addition of something Eli Manning has never had—an elite tight end who can split the defense and pose all sorts of matchup problems in the red zone. 

 

13. St. Louis Rams (7-9): Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State 

After addressing their need on the offensive line, St. Louis can focus its attention on a young defense that's loaded up front but needs depth in the secondary. Justin Gilbert has length and size (6'0", 202 lbs), strength and excellent ball skills. 

The NFC West keeps churning out strong defensive teams, so don't be surprised if those teams beat up on each other so much that the rest of the league steals a few games against them in 2014. 

 

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

I may have been too hasty in proclaiming Buffalo and Lewan as the ideal fit, because Aaron Donald has Chicago written all over him. He fills an overwhelming need for this defense in the middle of the line to stop the run or get after the quarterback. 

What that tweet means is Donald will disrupt opposing quarterbacks so much that even mediocre cornerbacks will look good playing behind him. Toughness in the trenches used to be a hallmark of Bears football. It's time to get back to that if this team wants to be a serious playoff threat. 

 

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

It's almost hyperbolic to compare any cornerback, especially a rookie, to Richard Sherman, but that's who Darqueze Dennard reminds me of. He's not quite as big or fast, but demonstrates the same physical style and ball skills. 

The Steelers are aging at a lot of key spots, especially in the secondary, and need to find new blood to get back to the postseason. 

 

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

Even though it hasn't been full blown, the Cowboys are going through a bit of rebuilding this offseason. They lost DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer up front. They've been soft in the middle for a long time, so Timmy Jernigan's size and quickness off the snap are just what this franchise needs. 

 

17. Baltimore Ravens (8-8): C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

Baltimore's corps linebacking trio (Elvis Dumervil, Daryl Smith, Terrell Suggs) is all over the age of 30. C.J. Mosley gives the Ravens insurance for Smith this season and someone to build around in 2015 and beyond. 

Few teams understand the importance of an inside linebacker who can dominate in all areas of the game. 

 

18. New York Jets (8-8): Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Whether the quarterback is Michael Vick or Geno Smith, the New York Jets need to add at least one more playmaker on the outside. Eric Decker is a solid No. 3 option, but doesn't have the speed or separation skills to be a 1,000-yard receiver without Peyton Manning. 

Marqise Lee doesn't have blazing speed off the line, but makes up for it with excellent routes, strong hands and long strides to get past defenders. 

 

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

Sometimes a player doesn't have the ceiling to be a star, but he can be plugged into a starting lineup for years without a team worrying about his production. That's exactly what Zack Martin is, which makes him instantly valuable to a Dolphins team in need of protection for Ryan Tannehill

 

20. Arizona Cardinals (10-6): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

Perhaps the surprise pick of the first round, Derek Carr is generating a lot of love in the final weeks leading up to the draft. But he also has to find a team that wants to take advantage of his strengths, which Bleacher Report NFL Draft Writer Matt Miller says is arm strength and an ability to spread the ball around. 

That sounds like the offense Bruce Arians wants to run in Arizona. He had success last season with Carson Palmer, but how long will the former No. 1 overall pick remain a viable starter? Palmer's 34 years old and still throws too many interceptions. 

Carr will be able to sit behind Palmer in 2014 while the Cardinals look to build off last season's 10 wins, similar to the way Palmer when a rookie sat behind Jon Kitna in Cincinnati. 

 

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

The Packers need to get more physical up front if they want to avoid early playoff exits. Louis Nix can rotate with B.J. Raji as a run-stuffing defensive tackle while learning to rush the passer. He'll have to avoid some of the injuries that plagued him in 2013. 

 

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

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has one big problem on his hands in the form of an aging defense that doesn't get off the field enough to allow a very promising, high-octane offense to run off as many snaps as possible.

Calvin Pryor can be an instant starter for the Eagles. He's a playmaker in the defensive backfield and boasts excellent range and closing speed as well as the strength to drop down in the box and play the run. 

 

23. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5): Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Michael Conroy

The more you think about Kelvin Benjamin in a Chiefs uniform, the better it seems. He's a tall, physical wide receiver who has no problems making plays in traffic, not to mention the red-zone problems he poses at 6'5", 240 pounds.

Andy Reid's West Coast offense relies on bigger receivers. Dwayne Bowe is 6'2", but there isn't enough depth around him to get the most out of Alex Smith. That will change with Benjamin's presence. 

 

24. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5): Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

Cornerback isn't a pressing need right now, but it will be very soon with Terence Newman and Adam Jones over the age of 30. Former first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick hasn't lived up to his potential since being drafted out of Alabama in 2012.

Bradley Roby is excellent in coverage, showing very fluid actions in man-to-man and zone and a great burst (4.39 40-yard dash). He can play the slot as a rookie, then transition into a higher profile role next year. 

 

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

Michael Conroy

This is one area where you bet on the raw talent and put injury concerns on the backburner. Cyrus Kouandjio didn't have a banner combine in February, to say the least. 

Yet there is something to be said for a player who did play in 27 games the last two years, even with injury concerns, and did so against the best competition in the country week after week. That's got to count for something. 

 

26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis, 11-5): Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

The Browns got their offensive playmaker earlier, so now they need a cornerback to put on the other side of Joe Haden. Jason Verrett is a bulldog, despite being undersized (5'9", 189 lbs). His ability to read quarterbacks is second to none in this year's class, as is his ability to turn and run with receivers. 

 

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

Coordinator Rob Ryan loves to rush the passer. In fact, his defensive schemes are reliant on blitz packages and edge-rushers who can get after the opposing quarterback. Dee Ford is a tweener who specializes in running after quarterbacks and can play outside linebacker in a 3-4. With more weight, he might one day be able to line up on the edge as a 4-3 defensive end.

 

28. Carolina Panthers (12-4): Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

The Panthers need to find Cam Newton a weapon to play with if they want him to keep developing. Ted Ginn and Steve Smith are gone. That makes Brandin Cooks the only logical choice for this team. 

Not only does Cooks have elite athleticism on the outside, but he's versatile enough to play in the slot or line up outside and run into traffic over the middle. You can't teach the separation skills he has. 

 

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

The Patriots got stronger on defense this offseason, particularly in the secondary with the additions of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, but they still need to find an insurance policy/future replacement for Vince Wilfork

Bill Belichick's defense has gotten soft in recent years, though Wilfork has been able to hide a lot of wounds. But without their rock in the middle, the Pats' D was exploited by Denver in the AFC Championship Game.

Ra'Shede Hageman gives the Patriots much-needed depth on the defensive line and the explosiveness to be an effective pass-rusher. 

 

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

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

While cornerback is a more pressing need for the 49ers, Odell Beckham Jr. has too much value at this spot for the team to pass up. He also gives Colin Kapernick a toy to play with, one who can actually stretch the field and open things up underneath for Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree

 

31. Denver Broncos (13-3): Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

Ryan Shazier hasn't gotten a headlines heading into this draft, but there is something to be said for a linebacker with blazing speed who does everything well, especially one who is versatile enough to play the run or drop back in coverage.

Bottom line: Shazier may be a bit undersized, but he makes plays all over the field. 

 

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

If Davante Adams ran a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash, he would be in the top tier of wide receivers in this draft. He did post a respectable 4.47 time during his pro day, making him a late first- or early second-round pick. 

The Seahawks need to find a player who can fill Golden Tate's role in this offense. Russell Wilson is terrific, but Tate was his safety net. Adams has the hands and ball skills to be that kind of player in this offense. 

 

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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