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NFL Mock Draft 2014: Best Bets for Each 1st-Round Selection

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NFL Mock Draft 2014: Best Bets for Each 1st-Round Selection
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Sammy Watkins

You've seen countless 2014 NFL mock drafts at this point, and the fact that the draft itself has been pushed back to the beginning of May means you've seen even more mocks than usual.

Well, here's another.

Mock drafts change by the day—no, by the hour. The needs of most teams haven't changed all that much since the craziness of NFL free agency subsided, but the way teams choose to address their needs in the draft changes frequently. There is a deep talent pool this year, and that means teams can hold off until later rounds to grab that skill player or defensive stalwart they need.

There are plenty of guys who stand out above the rest, however. These are the players teams will invest in as first-round draft picks. Here's how the entire first round will shake out.

 

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

Jadeveon Clowney has established himself as someone worthy of the No. 1 overall pick. He's a rare talent and has a motor that doesn't stop when he's dialed in. Plus, according to him, he'll be the hardest worker on the field:

Yes, the Houston Texans need a quarterback. But there are plenty of prospects in Round 2 who would warrant a shot at the job. Given the other talent at quarterback, the Texans should make the smart move here and grab Clowney.

 

2. St. Louis Rams (from WAS): Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo

The St. Louis Rams are in a good position to do several different things with this pick. They can grab an offensive lineman, a wide receiver or a force on the defensive side of the ball. In the end, they'll opt for the latter.

Khalil Mack is a tier below Clowney, but then again, all other defensive linemen in this draft are. Mack does have great speed and instincts off the edge, and the Rams will pair him with Alec Ogletree to form a strong unit of linebackers.

 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Johnny Manziel has the potential to be the game-changer the Jacksonville Jaguars so desperately need. After a few years of futility with Blaine Gabbert under center, the franchise will now turn to Manziel to take over. His supporting cast in Jacksonville is average, but Manziel's skills as a playmaker will give the offense a dimension that will help in keeping the chains moving.

 

4. Cleveland Browns: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

The Cleveland Browns will make a smart move here by taking Sammy Watkins and waiting until the No. 26 pick to take a quarterback. The idea of pairing Watkins with Josh Gordon is scary. Then throw in Jordan Cameron.

That's a downright nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators.

 

5. Oakland Raiders: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

In the first surprise pick of the 2014 draft, don't be surprised if the Oakland Raiders take Taylor Lewan at No. 5. Oakland Tribune beat writer Jerry McDonald tweets that Oakland is very, very high on Lewan:

While off-field issues appeared to have hurt his stock a few weeks ago, it is hard to deny Lewan's skill. The Raiders are probably in the minority in thinking that he's better than Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews, but he is still very talented.

 

6. Atlanta Falcons: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Hal Yeager

Speaking of Robinson, the big tackle from Auburn will go off the board with the next pick. The Atlanta Falcons are in need of consistency on the offensive line, as Matt Ryan struggled at times last season due to lapses in protection.

By making this selection, the Falcons will have a likely 10-year starter on their line.

 

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

The prospect of pairing Mike Evans with Vincent Jackson is too good for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to ignore. Josh McCown will be in a great position to produce in the first year with his new team if Tampa Bay makes this pick.

Evans size (6'5", 225 lbs) makes him an ideal end-zone target. While Jackson is going over the top of defenses with his speed, Evans will be making the defense pay over the middle of the field.

 

8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

The Minnesota Vikings won't want to wait until the later rounds to draft a quarterback. They'll make their choice at No. 8, taking UCF quarterback Blake Bortles.

Bortles has a big arm and can make plays in the right offensive scheme. He'll likely sit behind Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel for a good portion of his rookie year, but when the Vikings inevitably struggle, look for Bortles to take over.

 

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

Jake Matthews at No. 9 is a lucky pick for the Buffalo Bills, as he has gone higher in other mocks. He's a tier below Robinson but still has great skills. He uses his hands well and moves his feet well too.

Protecting EJ Manuel should be priority No. 1 for Buffalo. The young quarterback is still looking to make the jump to the type of starter that the Bills were expecting when they took him. Taking Matthews would aid in that.

 

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

Sue Ogrocki

Only a piece or two away on defense from improving their standing in the NFC North, the Detroit Lions would be wise to take Justin Gilbert at No. 10. Gilbert will aid in Detroit's coverage of the big wideouts in the division.

Improving the defense is really what needs to be done in Detroit. The offense is solid. Look for this draft to be defensive-heavy for Detroit.

 

11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA

Getting to the quarterback is Anthony Barr's specialty. The Tennessee Titans could use another pass-rusher off the edge, and Barr (a converted running back) has the speed to get around slower exterior linemen.

 

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

Michael Conroy

Aaron Donald was dominant in 2013 and would give the New York Giants the push on the interior that they desperately need. Pressure up front is what makes the Giants defense so dominant, but it lacked that pressure for much of last season.

Donald is physical and the best defensive tackle in this year's class. The Giants can go several different ways at No. 12, but passing on Donald wouldn't be smart.

 

13. St. Louis Rams: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

The Rams need help in the secondary, and corner Darqueze Dennard can step in and play right away. He and Mack will help to make this defense even younger and more talented than it already was.

All St. Louis needs is Sam Bradford to stay healthy in order to make serious improvements this year. A smart first round will help make those improvements a reality.

 

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

Next to Donald, Timmy Jernigan is the defensive tackle capable of making the biggest contributions right away. Chicago is in need of an upgrade on the defensive line, and Jernigan is a smart choice given his strong career at Florida State.

There were multiple times last season when Jernigan was the best draft prospect on the field for the Seminoles. Considering the talent that the Seminoles rolled out there on a weekly basis, that's notable.

 

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

Michael Conroy

The draft's best defensive tackles will go quickly in this portion of the draft, as the Pittsburgh Steelers may take Louis Nix III at No. 15.

The Steelers defense was pretty inconsistent last season, making this pick a no-brainer. It all starts with pressuring the quarterback, and Nix is quite good at doing so. His big frame (6'2", 342 lbs) requires multiple offensive linemen to hold back. This then opens holes for other defenders to crash through the line and get into the backfield.

 

16. Dallas Cowboys: Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn

Replacing the production of DeMarcus Ware won't be easy. Dee Ford can help make Dallas' transition into a new era defensively easier if selected at No. 16, as his skills are similar to Ware's.

While Ware is one of the top defenders in the NFL, Ford's talent is incredible. He has a high ceiling as either a defensive end or outside linebacker. Ford doesn't shy away from physical play and has good speed off the edge. This pick makes a lot of sense for Dallas.

 

17. Baltimore Ravens: Eric Ebron, TE, UNC

Joe Flacco would benefit from a pass-catching tight end, and even though he struggled with drops at UNC, Eric Ebron is the top tight end of this year's class.

He has big-play potential over the top of defenses, and Flacco will certainly look for him in those situations given his propensity to throw the deep ball. This is a good fit for all parties.

 

18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU

Jonathan Bachman

Geno Smith will benefit from Eric Decker this upcoming season, but the New York Jets would be smart to surround their young signal-caller with even more talent. Odell Beckham has been mocked to the Jets at No. 18 for what seems like weeks at this point, and that's because the fit is simply too good to ignore.

 

19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame

Zack Martin has been mocked to the Miami Dolphins for weeks. The Dolphins clearly have issues on the offensive line, as Ryan Tannehill spent entirely too much time on his back last year. With better protection, Tannehill can take the Dolphins to the next level.

 

20. Arizona Cardinals: Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Missouri

Pairing Kony Ealy with Sam Acho would help to make an "OK" group of linebackers much better. Ealy has comparable skills to some of the other DE/OLB hybrids like Barr and Ford, but he'll fall to No. 20 because of the needs of other teams.

Ealy could prove to be a steal for the Arizona Cardinals.

 

21. Green Bay Packers: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama

Upgrading at safety is crucial for the Green Bay Packers. They can try to wait until the later rounds to address the position, but if things go their way in the first round, they might be presented the opportunity to select Ha Ha Clinton-Dix—the best safety in the class.

 

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

It'll be hard to replace the production of DeSean Jackson, but Marqise Lee is also a speedster secondaries need to pay attention to. Once he's in open space, there are few players who will be able to catch up.

Nick Foles would benefit from having Lee. He and Jackson worked well together, so putting Lee in the same role would allow them to establish a connection early.

 

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

Dwayne Bowe can't do it all on his own in the vertical passing game. Brandin Cooks is a guy who can help Alex Smith distribute the ball around by giving him more quality options to pass to.

Cooks is a talented wideout, and NFL analyst Gil Brandt even went so far as to compare him to Wes Welker:

This is a smart choice.

 

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

Michael Conroy

Only a quality defender or two (aside from consistent play from Andy Dalton) away from a Super Bowl run, the Cincinnati Bengals would immediately improve by taking Kyle Fuller. He has the potential to develop into a No. 1 corner over time.

 

25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Another team with needs in the secondary, the San Diego Chargers will probably just take the best one available at No. 25. Jason Verrett fits here in this mock, but it could really be Verrett, Fuller or Bradley Roby depending on how other teams pick.

 

26. Cleveland Browns (from IND): Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Cleveland can get the quarterback it needs at No. 26. Teddy Bridgewater has slid down the first round after many predicted that he'd go No. 1 overall to the Texans.

This situation is much better for Bridgewater. He'll be in a position to produce with quality young weapons (Gordon, Cameron, Watkins, Ben Tate, etc.) around him. While there will be a learning curve, the future might actually be bright in Cleveland.

 

27. New Orleans Saints: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

The New Orleans Saints upgraded the secondary by bringing in safety Jairus Byrd and corner Champ Bailey, but Bailey isn't the long-term solution at corner. Drafting Roby and allowing him to learn from Bailey before he retires would be the best thing for all parties involved.

 

28. Carolina Panthers: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State

With other options gone at No. 28, the Carolina Panthers will look to wideout Davante Adams from Fresno State. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller actually projected him to go late in the first round:

Adams will give Cam Newton a valuable weapon on offense. The receiving corps can only be described as "decimated" right now, but bringing in Adams will help fix the lack of depth.

 

29. New England Patriots: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

Michael Conroy

The New England Patriots don't have much in terms of interior linemen. Ra'Shede Hageman would help fix that problem, as his large frame (6'6", 311 lbs) will make an impact right away.

The Patriots also need a tight end, but a guy like Jace Amaro can likely be had in Round 2.

 

30. San Francisco 49ers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Colin Kaepernick could use a deep threat to play alongside Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, and Kelvin Benjamin certainly fits that mold. He had a strong season catching passes from Jameis Winston at Florida State in 2013, and that success will translate into the NFL with Kaepernick.

 

31. Denver Broncos: Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA

Xavier Su'a-Filo has good speed, mobility and athleticism for a guard his size (6'4", 307 lbs). The Denver Broncos don't have any pressing needs, but adding those rare talents to their offensive line should trump any lesser needs at linebacker or other positions.

 

32. Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

Michael Conroy

Ryan Shazier ran an unofficial 4.36 at his pro day, via Mike Huguenin of NFL.com, and that type of speed is unbelievable for a linebacker. It's that type of speed that makes me confident in ranking Shazier just ahead of C.J. Mosley at this point in the offseason.

The defending Super Bowl champs are in a position to draft the best player available, and that guy will be Shazier.

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