NFL Draft Prospects 2014: Latest Expert Mock Predictions for Round 1

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NFL Draft Prospects 2014: Latest Expert Mock Predictions for Round 1
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The sun is shining, the flowers are in full bloom and finally, mercifully, the NFL calendar has landed on draft season. Well, almost. We still have, like, another six days—but, hey, progress.

Because of the overlong build-up, the process has come to a stasis of sorts. We're all kind of storylined-out at this point.

Johnny Manziel's constant dissection and status as All-American Bad Boy of the 2014 NFL Draft feels like it was a year ago. Michael Sam's historic announcement that he is gay and the widespread fracturing of opinion on what that means for his draft stock has (thankfully) faded away. Jadeveon Clowney is still a freak, but one whose outlandishness seems lessened with every day we hear him talked about as if he were a lukewarm tuna melt.

The NFL hasn't formally announced whether it plans on permanently moving the draft to May. (And, ironically, the play that allegedly pushed the three-day spectacle back a couple weeks has been postponed due to production issues.)

This wait has been at the very least an unnecessary annoyance, something that took an already ridiculously long process and smashed the hype to smithereens. Still, it's possible that the average fan  is not consumed by all the nonsense and feels the wait has been just perfect.

So, let's drive that spirit home and build toward some positivity. Here's a quick look at some of the latest expert mock drafts, with some notable takeaways thrown in for good measure. 

2014 NFL Mock Draft Expert Predictions
Pick No. Team Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN, April 29) Todd McShay (ESPN, April 29) Don Banks (Sports Illustrated, April 22) Dane Brugler (CBS Sports, April 28)
1 Houston Texans Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina) Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina) Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina) Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
2 St. Louis Rams Greg Robinson (OT, Auburn) Greg Robinson (OT, Auburn) Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson) Greg Robinson (OT, Auburn)
3 Jacksonville Jaguars Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson) Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson) Khalil Mack (OLB, Buffalo) Khalil Mack (OLB, Buffalo)
4 Cleveland Browns Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M) Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M) Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M) Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
5 Oakland Raiders Khalil Mack (OLB, Buffalo) Khalil Mack (OLB, Buffalo) Jake Matthews (OT, Texas A&M) Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
6 Atlanta Falcons Taylor Lewan (OT, Michigan) Jake Matthews (OT, Texas A&M) Greg Robinson (OT, Auburn) Jake Matthews (OT, Texas A&M)
7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M) Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M) Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M) Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
8 Minnesota Vikings Blake Bortles (QB, UCF) Blake Bortles (QB, UCF) Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville) Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
9 Buffalo Bills Jake Matthews (OT, Texas A&M) Taylor Lewan (OT, Michigan) Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina) Taylor Lewan (OT, Michigan)
10 Detroit Lions Odell Beckham Jr. (WR, LSU) Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama) Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
11 Tennessee Titans Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State) Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State) Blake Bortles (QB, UCF) Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
12 New York Giants Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh) Odell Beckham Jr. (WR, LSU) Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh) Zack Martin (OT, Notre Dame)
13 St. Louis Rams Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama) Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
14 Chicago Bears Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State) Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh) Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville) Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
15 Pittsburgh Steelers Zack Martin (OT, Notre Dame) Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech) Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State) Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
16 Dallas Cowboys Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville) Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville) Timmy Jernigan (DT, Florida State) Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA)
17 Baltimore Ravens Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina) Zack Martin (OT, Notre Dame) Taylor Lewan (OT, Michigan) Jimmie Ward (S, Northern Illinois)
18 New York Jets Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State) Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State) Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State) Odell Beckham Jr. (WR, LSU)
19 Miami Dolphins C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama) Morgan Moses (OT, Virginia) Zack Martin (OT, Notre Dame) Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
20 Arizona Cardinals Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State) C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama) Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA) Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State)
21 Green Bay Packers Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State) Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State) C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama) C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
22 Philadelphia Eagles Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State) Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State) Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State) Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
23 Kansas City Chiefs Marqise Lee (WR, USC) Marqise Lee (WR, USC) Odell Beckham Jr. (WR, LSU) Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
24 Cincinnati Bengals Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri) Jason Verrett (CB, TCU) Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State) Jason Verrett (CB, TCU)
25 San Diego Chargers Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA) Anthony Barr (OLB, UCLA) Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech) Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
26 Cleveland Browns Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech) Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana) Marqise Lee (WR, USC) Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
27 New Orleans Saints Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana) Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State) Jason Verrett (CB, TCU) Dee Ford (DE, Auburn)
28 Carolina Panthers Morgan Moses (OT, Virginia) Joel Bitonio (OT, Nevada) Morgan Moses (OT, Virginia) JaWuan James (OT, Tennessee)
29 New England Patriots Ra'Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota) Ra'Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota) Louis Nix III (DT, Notre Dame) Louis Nix III (DT, Notre Dame)
30 San Francisco 49ers Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt) Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State) Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana) Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
31 Denver Broncos Jason Verrett (CB, TCU) Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri) Xavier Su'a-Filo (G, UCLA) Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
32 Seattle Seahawks Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame) Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame) Jace Amaro (TE, Texas Tech) Xavier Su'a-Filo (G, UCLA)

Various

Read Mel Kiper's mock draft here, Todd McShay's here, Don Banks' here and Dane Brugler's here.

 

The Lone Island: Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)

Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

Kiper Landing Spot: N/A

McShay Landing Spot: N/A

Banks Landing Spot: Minnesota Vikings (No. 8 Overall)

Brugler Landing Spot: N/A

It may actually come to this. Teddy Bridgewater, once the consensus top-rated quarterback and possible No. 1 overall pick, might have fallen completely out of the first round. Bridgewater is absent from three of our four experts' latest breakdowns, and lone dissenter (Banks) just so happens to have the least-recent post.

The reality is that it's highly unlikely Bridgewater actually escapes Thursday night. He's too good and there are too many quarterback-needy teams with high second-round picks that will be willing to trade up. Teams like the Patriots, Browns and Cardinals probably already have their ears to the ground assessing their hauls in a potential trade back.

None of the experts I chose accounted for trades, which I did for structural reasons and because there is a fundamental insanity about mocking both picks and trades. If you'd ask Kiper, McShay and Brugler, all would say it's more likely than not a team moves into the back half of Round 1 to land Bridgewater—in what may amount to the steal of the draft.

I've evaluated Bridgewater as the best quarterback in this draft throughout, but recognize that NFL teams just aren't seeing it the same way. The groundswell among experts and insiders is largely the same: Dude's stock has dropped like a rock. There are reasons, both legitimate and totally not, for Bridgwater's backslide, but we're at the point where it's no longer a smokescreen.

We'll just have to see if NFL teams, or the litany of so-called experts who have been riding for Bridgewater all this time, are right in the end. Something tells me Bridgewater's bank account won't be happy for the first few years regardless.

 

The Savior (?): Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)

Patric Schneider/Associated Press

Kiper Landing Spot: Cleveland Browns (No. 4 Overall)

McShay Landing Spot: Cleveland Browns (No. 4 Overall)

Banks Landing Spot: Cleveland Browns (No. 4 Overall)

Brugler Landing Spot: Cleveland Browns (No. 4 Overall)

We've all seen the jersey. We've all laughed at the jersey. The jersey represents more than a decade-and-a-half of complete incompetence at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, dating back to their franchise resurrection in 1999.

The names are incomparably bad. Spergon Wynn. Bruce Gradkowski. Doug Pederson. Brandon Weeden. And on and on and on. It takes a magnifying glass to spot even a season's worth of basic mediocrity. 

It's increasingly looking like Johnny Manziel will either break that curse or be the most high-profile name added to the jersey trash heap since Tim Couch. All four experts have settled on Manziel landing at No. 4 overall—and being the first quarterback taken period. For a kid whose draft process began with widespread questions about his immaturity and potential ceiling as an NFL passer, it's nothing short of a win.

Manziel is also the type of once-in-a-generation player whose purpose in life may be to become this particular draft pick. It's set up almost out of a poorly made and acted Disney movie. The controversial bad boy comes in, swoops the down-on-its-luck franchise off its feet and becomes a national hero. Then, just as everything is starting to go right, the bad boy's tendencies start to go off the rails. You get it. You understand the plot points of movies in the history of everdom.

What we've all seemingly agreed upon is that Manziel will not merely be OK. He'll either figure out how to alter his wild brand of football just enough so it works at the NFL level, or he'll be remembered on that same silly plane as Tim Tebow. The possibility that he could someday register the same level of apathy as, say, Kellen Clemens, has never dawned on folks.

For Manziel (and potentially the Browns), that could be a great or totally horrible thing a couple of years down the line.

 

The Consensus: Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)

Mary Ann Chastain/Associated Press

Kiper Landing Spot: Houston Texans (No. 1 Overall)

McShay Landing Spot: Houston Texans (No. 1 Overall)

Banks Landing Spot: Houston Texans (No. 1 Overall)

Brugler Landing Spot: Houston Texans (No. 1 Overall)

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reported that the decision for Houston will come down to Manziel and Clowney, but, if we look at the somewhat-strong evidence placed before us, the verdict seems to be in.

Rarely do draft pundits—especially across multiple outlets—reach a straight-line consensus without a semblance of inside knowledge or, at the very least, strong insinuations. Sitting at the No. 1 spot, the Texans have no reason to throw out any smokescreens. They could angle for a trade designed to land linebacker Khalil Mack, who would fit their 3-4 base scheme a little better, but they're in the ultimate position of power.

Clowney would also be something of the ultimate power play. Putting J.J. Watt and Clowney on the same defense is almost unfair to opposing quarterbacks. Clowney would probably have to move upright and become an outside linebacker in Houston's base set, but he's such a physical specimen that that might not matter. He has the athleticism and lateral quickness to do fine in coverage, and he's a ridiculous, All-Pro-waiting-to-happen pass-rusher.

The Texans would probably line Clowney up at their weak-side linebacker position. Whitney Mercilus hasn't panned out the way they've hoped, and Clowney would give opposing offensive coordinators one hell of a decision between focusing their coverage to Watt's or Clowney's side. Even throwing them on the same side and saying "go ahead, choose one" is mildly frightening for me, and the last football I played was college intramurals.

Houston should and will take a quarterback at the top of Round 2—or possibly even trade into the back half of Round 1 to scoop up someone who has fallen. If the Texans wind up with Bridgewater and Clowney, well, let's just say September 2013 Internet just imploded.

 

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