2014 NFL Mock Draft: Every Team's Best 1st-Round Fit
Before we dive into this potentially controversial NFL mock draft, it’s important to understand that I made the selections throughout this slideshow based on my personal preferences for prospects and team fits.
One of the limitations throughout this process was prohibiting trades.
This mock draft deviates from the norm, but the idea was to treat it like I was in control of each team and could pick the prospects I thought showed the most promise.
Prepare to get livid about the guys I’m picking for each team as I put on 32 different general manager hats in one draft.
1. Houston Texans
The Pick: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Picking first overall when you don’t have a surefire prospect like Andrew Luck is never ideal. Trading out of this slot at a bargain rate might be something to consider, but finding a willing participant is not going to be easy.
If Jadeveon Clowney had a more productive junior year and didn’t raise concerns about his work ethic and passion, he might be a prospect worth drafting despite not being a good fit for Houston’s scheme.
With too much risk in picking the best quarterback in this class here, the best option for a star acquisition who can produce immediately is Khalil Mack, one of the safest and most complete prospects in this draft.
He should fit in nicely in that defense and provide years of top-quality service.
This opens the door for Houston to look at a QB in the second round or trade up into the later portion of the first round.
2. St. Louis Rams
The Pick: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Rams are one of the few teams in the top 10 that are not interested in a quarterback.
Jadeveon Clowney does not play a position of need, but he fits their 4-3 scheme and is quite possibly the best player available.
The Rams can afford selecting him here since they pick again at No. 13. Also, in a league dominated by quarterbacks, you can never have too many pass-rushers.
Now the Rams also have a very powerful bargaining chip for any team looking to acquire either Clowney or Chris Long.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Everyone knows the Jaguars need a quarterback. I understand he's undersized and awkward for the quarterback position, but Johnny Manziel did more in two years than any other quarterback in this draft did over his entire collegiate career.
Johnny Football does come with risks, but there has never been a player like him. Sometimes you just have to roll the dice and take a chance with one of the most intriguing prospects to come along in years.
Even current Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis told TMZ that he likes Johnny Manziel. Lewis said, "I think he's dope. I think he's confident, somebody that's gonna bring some excitement to the locker room."
He can make the Jaguars a competitive team instantly, even as he learns the speed of the game and grows into the position.
4. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Cleveland is likely eyeing Sammy Watkins here, and for good reason. But who exactly is going to be throwing the ball to these talented receivers?
What the Browns need here is a franchise quarterback. The team has only marginally ever experienced this luxury as a franchise. Bortles has more upside than Teddy Bridgewater and is a prototypical NFL quarterback.
Putting on the tape reveals enormous promise for Bortles that should translate to the next level. He's tough, competitive and big. He also has a good balance of leadership skills.
Bridgewater fans may be angry with this pick, but Bortles has more potential to be a star, while Bridgewater, in my opinion, will never be more than a solid NFL starter—maxing out somewhere in that 10-15 range.
5. Oakland Raiders
The Pick: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
With the pressure on to perform now, the Raiders need a difference-maker on offense. Sammy Watkins is perhaps the most NFL-ready offensive weapon of the 2014 draft class. He may not have incredible size or speed for an elite wideout, but he does everything exceptionally well.
For those thinking I’m crazy for passing up some of the draft’s elite blockers, you should read my extended explanation in an article I wrote earlier in April.
The Raiders can look for a future quarterback option in the later rounds. Brett Smith is a highly underrated option who is reminiscent of Johnny Manziel. He should be a great value pick in the third or fourth round and is actually one of my favorite quarterbacks in this class.
6. Atlanta Falcons
The Pick: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Falcons have several needs at No. 6, with a pass-rusher perhaps being their biggest need. It would be amazing if Mack or Clowney slid to them here, but that's not a likely scenario. Anthony Barr is not as valuable as a full-time defensive end in a 4-3. The results of that experiment could turn out similar to Shea McClellin being drafted by the Bears.
Although Barr is an elite athlete with the production to match, his tape leaves something to be desired.
Offensive line is an area of immediate need, but Atlanta can address this position later in the draft. Elite pass-rushers will dry up way before solid blockers this year.
Aaron Donald is a rare prospect who can provide elite pass-rush production from an interior position. That output is valuable in the same way that drafting an elite tight end in fantasy football is.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Tampa Bay is not satisfied with Mike Glennon as its QB of the future, and neither am I. It’s time to add some fierce and exciting competition to the mix with one of the most coveted QBs of the 2014 draft class.
As mentioned earlier, I don’t necessarily believe stardom is in Teddy Bridgewater's future, but I see a pretty productive starter to be had over the next decade. Bridgewater should pair nicely with new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford.
8. Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
With most of the elite prospects being scooped up, Greg Robinson suddenly becomes an incredible value at No. 8.
He is one of the most physically imposing blockers to come along since Leonard Davis. He is also young at just 21 years of age. He has better tape than Taylor Lewan and more impressive physical tools than Jake Matthews.
The Vikings can plug him in right away opposite Matt Kalil for an amazing tandem of finesse and power at the tackle positions. Just think about what Adrian Peterson can do running behind a bulldozer like Robinson.
9. Buffalo Bills
The Pick: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
I’ve heard people questioning whether or not Mike Evans is an elite receiver—they must not be watching the same tape that I am.
Grabbing Mike Evans here will dramatically transform the Bills passing game and help EJ Manuel ascend to the next level of his development. With Evans as a target, Manuel can launch jump balls when in trouble with the comfort of knowing the ball will almost certainly not be intercepted.
Evans can stretch the field with speed but can also box out defenders like a power forward in basketball.
10. Detroit Lions
The Pick: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
I understand that many of you are going nuts over Jason Verrett being the first cornerback drafted in this class, but he is truly the best CB available. Although he is a bit shorter than you’d like, his career production, physical tools and film review are all elite.
He is an aggressive, physical scrapper who has impressive change of direction and the best instincts at his position.
At the combine, he ran a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash and had a 39" vertical jump, per NFL.com. That’s a deadly combination of speed and explosion to go with fantastic football skills.
He should start immediately for the Lions and will eventually show everyone how a 5’9” corner from TCU could be the first CB drafted.
11. Tennessee Titans
The Pick: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
With the Titans making the switch to a 3-4 defensive front, Anthony Barr is the perfect prospect to help them make the transition. They should be jumping for joy to see him still available, considering the elite pass-rushers of this class are going to thin out rather quickly.
To make this pick more exciting, Barr is the fastest player in the entire draft at any position relative to his body mass. Pair that up with two years of top-level production, and you have a guy with unlimited potential.
12. New York Giants
The Pick: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
This pick is almost a no-brainer for the G-Men. It’s been a long time since the Giants have had a transcendent middle linebacker who can plug holes and run sideline to sideline. We all witnessed the value this brings to a team with Luke Kuechly dominating for the Carolina Panthers in a similar manner.
I said this pick is almost a no-brainer because Eric Ebron is a tempting option still on the board. I don’t love Ebron like some other evaluators do, but I do see the desirable potential.
13. St. Louis Rams
The Pick: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
With their second pick of the first round, the Rams can now turn their attention to the offensive line by selecting the most physically gifted offensive lineman of the draft, tackle Taylor Lewan.
At 6’7”, 309 pounds, he still managed to run less than five seconds in the 40, posting a 4.87 at the combine, per NFL.com.
The best value at offensive tackle in my opinion is Morgan Moses, who will likely come off the board in the second round in the real NFL draft. But Lewan’s elite upside and physical tools are hard to pass up. He should do better handling the speed-rushers of the NFC West than Moses.
14. Chicago Bears
The Pick: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Selecting Jake Matthews in the middle of the first round would be considered an amazing steal for the Bears. He should instantly upgrade the right tackle position as Chicago continues to prioritize protection for Jay Cutler.
Matthews is a solid prospect all around but does not do anything better than anyone else in this class. His biggest strength is not having a weakness, although I would have liked to see him finish his blocks with aggression from time to time.
Trading up to acquire Mosley might be an option to consider here as well.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Steelers need help all over the secondary and to get younger on defense across the board.
Justin Gilbert is a prototypical corner for the NFL. He has excellent size and speed and the ball skills to be considered one of the most explosive kick returners in this class.
While at Oklahoma State, he led all return men in the nation with six career touchdowns. He is also ranked third out of 30 cornerbacks in my system that ranks college production.
Many people are probably wondering why I didn’t go safety here with Calvin Pryor still on the board.
The fact of the matter is that I don't see Pryor as being properly valued in the middle of the first round. His awareness and cover skills leave too many questions. Besides, I have another safety whom I think will eventually be the best in this class, and he isn’t from Alabama.
16. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
The Cowboys need help all over the defense and would really like to land a pass-rusher with this pick. The problem is they would be reaching if they took any of the remaining rushers this high in the draft.
I understand that many people out there like Dee Ford and Kony Ealy at this point in the draft, but neither of these guys impressed me enough on tape or in career production.
An ideal situation here would be for the Cowboys to trade down to acquire more picks, considering the primary targets are likely to be available later on. But since they can’t do that in this mock draft, the Cowboys are going to improve their team speed on defense and draft the playmaking athletic freak Ryan Shazier.
He has the ability to become a Derrick Brooks type in this Tampa 2 scheme and helps to add depth to a position that was riddled with injuries the last two seasons.
Anytime you can get the most productive non-rush linebacker and the most athletically gifted one this late in the draft, you’re doing something right.
17. Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Once the inevitable boos from this selection calm down, I can try to explain.
Simply put, Allen Robinson is the third-best wide receiver in this draft. He is going to be a star.
At 6’2”, 220 pounds, he displays the explosion and instincts to make incredible highlight plays along with the consistency to put up gaudy career numbers.
In an article I did featuring the most physically gifted prospects of the draft, Allen Robinson ranked fifth out of more than 250 possible candidates.
Here is a segment from that piece: “He ran a blazing 6.54 seconds in the three-cone and a four-second short shuttle. He also wowed at his pro day when he leaped 42 inches during his vertical jump.”
18. New York Jets
The Pick: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Speaking of explosive receivers, Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the most electrifying prospects at any position. Not only is he a dangerous receiver who is capable of turning a short slant into a highlight reel, he is also an accomplished kick returner.
With the 18th pick, cornerback is certainly an option, but it makes more sense to finally address one of the NFL's least talented offenses over the last few years.
19. Miami Dolphins
The Pick: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
It was a bit of a shock for the Dolphins to see Eric Ebron available this late in the first round. These are the kind of shockers that can throw off a carefully crafted plan—albeit in a good way.
It’s understood that offensive line is a pressing need here with the high-profile departure of tackle Jonathan Martin and former Pro Bowler Richie Incognito. This will just have to be addressed in the second or third round because Ebron brings a ton of value to the table at pick No. 19.
20. Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Things are starting to get really scary in the Cardinals secondary with Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie, Tyrann Mathieu and now Darqueze Dennard. Maybe the Legion of Boom will have some competition for the most dominant secondary in the league.
Derek Carr might be a play here for the Cards, but I’m not a fan of him in the first round. Outside linebacker and offensive line are also areas of need. Kyle Van Noy would be a great addition to this defense, but it’s just too hard to pass up Dennard’s value at this point in the draft.
21. Green Bay Packers
The Pick: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
Deone Bucannon is the selection here, and I understand how many of you might be thinking I’ve lost all credibility at this point. Well, I’ve been called crazy many times before, but the end result of my often atypical analysis is usually quite reasonable in hindsight.
He is the most complete safety available in this draft. He possesses great size (6’1”, 211 lbs), speed and explosion. The former Cougar was the most productive safety of this draft class. He is also the most physically gifted safety prospect this year.
Bucannon is a hard hitter and reliable tackler with a knack for finding the ball and making incredible plays.
The consensus seems to be that he will come off the board in the second round, but why wait to get the best player at a position that is limited in depth this year?
22. Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
The Eagles have been in need of a solid, playmaking safety for a while now. Seeing Calvin Pryor available this late in the draft makes it an easy choice.
He may not be the complete package to roam center field, but he brings valuable physicality to the defense that can help set the tone on that side of the ball. He is great in run support and plays with unrivaled intensity.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
The Pick: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
This pick has the potential to be a really good one or a total boneheaded move. Admittedly, I have a strong bias for receivers who can make defenders miss after the catch. With that said, Marqise Lee has an elite talent for elusiveness, which will hopefully overshadow his tendency for drops.
Quarterback Alex Smith needs more weapons with Dwayne Bowe and Co. struggling to get open.
Kansas City might also look to rebuild an offensive line ransacked in free agency this offseason.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
The Pick: Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State
It may seem crazy at first glance, but I’d rather be wrong going with my own eyes than wrong listening to everyone else.
I have Smith ranked as the third-best 4-3 linebacker behind only C.J. Mosley and Ryan Shazier. Believe it or not, with all the talk about how deep this draft class is, non-rush linebackers are an extremely thin position. Chris Borland is an overrated player who may never be a decent starter in the NFL.
Thus, when you aren’t able to trade down, reaching a bit for Smith makes a lot of sense.
He may be thin for an NFL linebacker (6'3", 218 lbs), but he plays like one of the biggest, fastest and toughest defenders available. He’s also an excellent coverage linebacker, which is exactly what this team needs.
If he had a bit more bulk to his frame, I’d consider him the second-best LB of 2014.
25. San Diego Chargers
The Pick: Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU
San Diego needs to get younger and faster from the outside. In my opinion, there’s a good chance Kyle Van Noy will eventually have a better career than Anthony Barr.
Van Noy is one of the most instinctual playmakers in this draft class. He reminds me a lot of Tyrann Mathieu with his playmaking instincts and clever way of avoiding blockers.
I also considered cornerback Kyle Fuller with this pick, but a top-notch edge-rusher like Van Noy is more in line with the Chargers’ needs.
26. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: David Yankey, G, Stanford
I'm not sure why more people don’t view David Yankey as the premier guard in the draft, but that’s exactly who this guy is when I put on his tape.
He is a pile-mover who can pass-protect and move in space. The Browns could use help inside, and there is no one better for the job than the Stanford product.
A lot of analysts and fans have Xavier Su’a-Filo from UCLA ranked ahead of Yankey, but I don’t see that in the slightest. It seems as though people can get so mesmerized by offensive linemen with quick feet that they forget to look at the rest of the job requirements.
27. New Orleans Saints
The Pick: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Unfortunately, Bradley Roby was charged with an OVI recently after falling asleep in his car.
This news will likely hurt his stock with the draft less than two weeks away.
He graded out as the most physically gifted cornerback in the draft and was also the most productive. However, his 2013 tape at Ohio State showed a kid who didn’t seem to play with his hair on fire. He lacked toughness and avoided contact far too often.
Despite the issues with character and effort, his talent is unquestionable, and it does show up huge in his college production.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan could use more playmakers on defense, and he’ll take them where he can get them.
28. Carolina Panthers
The Pick: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
The Panthers could use a wide receiver in the first round to help Cam Newton here, but the surplus at that position should allow for some good value later on.
Drafting a receiver in one of the first two rounds is an absolute must for Carolina this offseason. Newton has gone long enough without the help of a dangerous outside weapon with size, youth and speed.
In any case, being able to grab my favorite tackle in the later part of the first round is a huge value pick for the Panthers. Carolina should be able to plug in Moses right away to replace Jordan Gross.
29. New England Patriots
The Pick: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
With Vince Wilfork on the back nine of his career, grabbing his mini-me should make for an interesting training camp.
Louis Nix III is a great addition to help shore up a run defense that became one of the worst in the league when Wilfork went down with an injury.
In the meantime, Nix can learn directly from a guy who mastered the nose tackle position for nearly a decade.
30. San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
Even though Dominique Easley has a concerning history consisting of multiple knee injuries, he is worthy of a first-round grade. If it weren’t for those torn ACLs, he would easily be ranked in the top 15.
His motor and quickness are what make him so special. In fact, he had the most impressive tape of any interior defensive lineman that I’ve ever seen.
San Francisco has to be at least considering a wideout or a cornerback here, but for the value, Easley has a chance to be one of the biggest steals of this draft, barring any more knee operations.
31. Denver Broncos
The Pick: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Although Kyle Fuller is not the most athletically gifted cornerback, he is one of the draft's best football players.
He is not afraid to mix it up at the line of scrimmage and has a knack for breaking up passes. His man-cover skills are impressive, and there is very little he doesn’t do well. He is a solid pick for the Broncos.
Offensive line is an area of need, but when a guy like Fuller falls in your lap, you have to jump on the opportunity.
32. Seattle Seahawks
The Pick: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
The former basketball player out of Indiana has been one of the late risers of this draft. However, I was high on this kid months ago after some draftniks on Twitter told me to check him out. Once I did, I knew he was going to be something special.
Seattle could use another weapon on the outside to pair with Percy Harvin. Latimer is a great choice here for his incredible athleticism and fluidity. He has not been playing football for long, so most of the ability he flashes on tape is basically raw and unpolished.
It seems the Super Bowl champions are going to be a stronger team offensively heading into 2014.
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player and currently writes for Bleacher Report.
For more draft discussion, hit him up on Twitter.