NFL Mock Draft 2014: Sure Things for Every 1st-Round Team

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NFL Mock Draft 2014: Sure Things for Every 1st-Round Team
G.M. ANDREWS

At face value, most teams—through each front office's lens—land a sure thing and typically come away satisfied in the first round, which will likely be the case in the 2014 NFL draft.

It's not until a minimum of three years down the line that a class can be truly evaluated, but as things stand now, the order, value and needs have all but cemented themselves as the draft approaches.

Let's take another look at the order without trades and gift each team with a prospect that marries need and value as soundly as possible.

 

1. Houston Texans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

What, expecting Tom Savage?

Fans who sift through the white noise discover one thing rather quickly: Nobody knows which quarterback is coming off the board first or when.

This pick is either Jadeveon Clowney or a quarterback. Clowney's no sure thing (and a strange 3-4 fit) by any means, so don't be fooled by strong workouts.

Speaking of workouts, Teddy Bridgewater's weren't so hot—allegedly. But his elite film hasn't changed. He's the best quarterback in the class.

 

2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

The St. Louis Rams are hot for Sammy Watkins, having traveled to see him work out. Think there's no correlation? Ask ESPN's Nick Wagoner:

Last year, the Rams paid a visit to West Virginia, where Tavon Austin put on a show that was impressive enough to seal the deal for the Rams to move up to No. 8 overall and draft him. That visit also helped the status of fellow Mountaineer receiver Stedman Bailey, whom the Rams drafted in the third round.

Look, the Rams have two picks in the first round and need another weapon. Another top-10 receiver to help Sam Bradford is a no-brainer.

 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Conventional wisdom says Jacksonville winds up with whichever elite pass-rusher is left after Houston picks.

That logic is flawed, though, as Houston doesn't have to pick a defender. It's dealer's choice for the Jaguars in this scenario, with the edge going to Clowney from a sheer upside and fit standpoint, although Khalil Mack would have been an amazing consolation prize.

 

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

There's plenty of noise surrounding the Cleveland Browns and their two first-round selections, but when push comes to shove, a potential franchise quarterback has to be the pick at No. 4.

Johnny Manziel is a tad polarizing in all circles, but his upside speaks for itself. It's worrisome at times that his decision-making may be an issue at the next level, but that's mitigated in Cleveland in a quarterback-friendly offense with weapons such as Josh Gordon.

The pick gives the team flexibility later in the round too.

 

5. Oakland Raiders: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Let's just say the Oakland Raiders aren't in win-now mode.

Oakland can afford a pick like Greg Robinson, who is still a tad raw and needs a few years of development. He's a bulldozer in the run game but can be sluggish in pass protection.

Replacing Jared Veldheer is no easy task, but Robinson can develop into a similar player or better down the line.

 

6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo

Apparently, the Atlanta Falcons view themselves as one or two pieces away from contention.

That's fine, as one of the major needs falls in their lap in the form of Mack, a versatile pass-rusher who can fit the hybrid defense the Falcons run.

Mack can put his hand in the dirt or stand up and make an impact as a rookie. If the Falcons are aggressive enough, they can trade back into the first round and still grab a solid offensive tackle.

 

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

Mike Evans to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is quite the popular pick:

For good reason. Lovie Smith is grooming Mike Glennon or throwing all his support behind Josh McCown and has only Vincent Jackson as a significant receiving threat.

Evans changes that in a hurry as a target that can both move the chains consistently and break open a big play.

 

8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

We're at the point in the class where the quarterbacks left on the board are more developmental types who could use a few years holding a clipboard.

Get this—gasp—throwing a prospect to the wolves is hardly ever the best idea. Mike Zimmer and Minnesota will understand this with Blake Bortles. It's the reason Matt Cassel is still on board.

Bortles can sit for a year and learn before entering an offense with Adrian Peterson and Cordarrelle Patterson. Not bad.

 

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

Tight end is a rather iffy positional group overall this year, but Buffalo won't have any qualms taking the game-breaking Eric Ebron with Evans off the board.

The mission in Buffalo is rather simple: make EJ Manuel's sophomore year as smooth as possible. To that end, a big-bodied tight end who can line up at multiple spots and absorb passes underneath and in the red zone is a smart approach.

 

10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Surprise! Like most positions this year, the clear-cut No. 1 player at corner is hard to tell.

Let's say it's Darqueze Dennard, a physical corner who appears to have one of the smoothest transitions to the pro game of all prospects at his position.

Dennard fits well in Detroit. There's some sound young talent in the secondary already, but there's no such thing as too much in today's NFL.

 

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

NFL Network's Gil Brandt puts it best:

Anthony Barr is a converted running back with a limited move set, which makes him a risky pick. The allure of an elite pass-rusher is there, but it's certainly a potential-over-value pick for Tennessee.

That's fine, as the new unit needs as much helps as it can get.

 

12. New York Giants: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

The limited buzz on Jake Matthews is hilarious given his pedigree and overall sound game, which makes him the surest thing in the class.

No complaints from the New York Giants, though, as they need as much talent as possible in front of Eli Manning to help mitigate his turnover and health woes.

 

13. St. Louis Rams: Ha'Sean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

Ha'Sean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix seems to be the consensus top safety this year, which is a point that is hard to argue after film evaluation.

With their second pick in the first round, the Rams can adequately fill the final hole on the roster on the defensive side of things. There's a massive void next to T.J. McDonald, but it's one that gets filled with a rangy safety in Clinton-Dix.

 

14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

The Henry Melton void is rather easily addressed with Aaron Donald.

Donald is a prototypical 3-technique tackle who can apply a somewhat uncanny interior rush to collapse pockets. This opens up space for the linebackers to work and flushes quarterbacks into the hands of edge defenders.

Not a bad gig considering the Bears also brought on Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston.

 

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Wideout or corner?

That will likely be the conversation on draft day in Pittsburgh, but one has to think the front office will lean defense given the age of the secondary.

Justin Gilbert enters a friendly environment and can learn from the likes of Ike Taylor before taking over. Given the depth at wideout this year, it can wait.

 

16. Dallas Cowboys: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

Kony Ealy has had quite the humble approach to the draft, but it's hard to find a more well-rounded defensive end in the class.

Ealy can rush from the edge, help stuff or divert the run and kick inside and rush on passing downs.

That sounds like the perfect prospect for the cap-strapped Cowboys, a team that needs as much versatility out of its limited expenditures this offseason as possible.

 

17. Baltimore Ravens: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

The consensus seems split on Taylor Lewan, but the fact remains he's a dominant player physically who, with some technique refinement, could quite literally be the top tackle in the NFL.

A team with a quarterback worth more than $100 million won't pass on that.

Lewan can start right away and provide an upgrade while he refines his game. Payday in a few years will be ugly, but the Ravens don't seem to have an issue shelling out crazy cash.

 

18. New York Jets: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

There's a reason Kyle Fuller is one of the busiest pre-draft names, per Brandt:

There's also a reason the New York Jets are on the list.

Fresh off losing Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie in recent years, Rex Ryan needs to regroup with a better secondary. More weapons for Geno Smith would be ideal, but a top-tier corner prospect is the right move.

 

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

Poor Dolphins:

So close to Lewan, yet Zack Martin is arguably better for the issues in Miami. 

As the front office attempts to rework the worst unit from last season, the team needs flexibility. Marin can literally play any spot on the line at a high level, so he's the best man for the job.

 

20. Arizona Cardinals: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

Again, sitting a quarterback for a year or two shouldn't be this frowned upon thing in the "what have you done for me lately?" NFL.

Derek Carr is quite the intriguing developmental prospect, but he spent entirely too much time in a quarterback-friendly offense at Fresno State and took few snaps from under center.

Given the chance to sit and learn from guru Bruce Arians, Carr will be a fine replacement when Carson Palmer hangs up the cleats.

 

21. Green Bay Packers: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

Green Bay needs an identity on defense, not to mention a rangy, sideline-to-sideline tackling machine to suffocate the run game.

That sounds like C.J. Mosley, one of the draft's better overall prospects who takes a tumble thanks to the league's strange value placed on inside linebackers.

Mosely is a known commodity, which certainly isn't a bad thing. He'll instantly be the face of the defense in Green Bay.

 

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

It's easy to think Chip Kelly will want to grab a wideout at No. 22, but his offense seems to squeeze production out of whoever lines up.

Instead, Kelly can upgrade his lackluster defensive secondary with Calvin Pryor. The Louisville product won't be without his struggles like most rookie defensive backs, but he's a better option than the rest of the current depth chart.

 

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Kansas City is going to need an answer across from Dwayne Bowe sooner rather than later, and this year is quite the time to make the necessary investment.

Marqise Lee doesn't get the hype he deserves, but that allows him to fall to the Chiefs. He's got great speed and crisp routes but could use some refinement in catch consistency.

Lee won't see a huge amount of coverage as a rookie, which may allow him to have a Keenan Allen-esque breakout campaign.

 

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Good luck figuring out what the Cincinnati Bengals will do on draft day.

Perhaps the biggest need of all in the Queen City is a fifth corner. No kidding. The three on top are injury and age risks, while Dre Kirkpatrick is still a tad of an unknown.

Jason Verrett has the ability to play right away, but he won't need to do so unless an injury occurs. In a few years, he'll be a sound starter alongside Kirkpatrick.

 

25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

It's not often a playoff team stands pat and addresses its biggest need with the best in class in that area, but San Diego seems poised to do so.

Louis Nix is easily the best 3-4 nose tackle in the class, and it's one of the biggest holes on the Chargers roster.

Too easy. Nix won't have any issues with the transition and will create an obvious ripple effect on the rest of the unit.

 

26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts): Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

With so many picks in the top 100, it's only right the second of two first-rounders goes toward making the life of a rookie signal-caller easier. 

Cleveland hits a home run with Odell Beckham Jr., a wideout who is both an elite prospect at his position and a significant contributor on special teams, as ESPN's Kevin Weidl helps to point out:

Beckham Jr. easily thrives in Cleveland with most of the attention on Gordon.

 

27. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

Rob Ryan needs a versatile linebacker who can both play inside and out, the latter to both drop in coverage and apply a rush at times.

A freak of nature, Ryan Shazier can do all of the above thanks to blinding speed and a natural nose for the football.

The defense in New Orleans is quietly one of the best, and the addition of Shazier only reinforces the notion.

 

28. Carolina Panthers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State 

There's no excuse for the Carolina Panthers at this point. The team needs to help Cam Newton, even if it is somewhat of a run-first offense.

Steve Smith is gone, and Allen Robinson in no way replaces everything he brought to the table, but observers would be hard-pressed to find another wideout in the class who fights so violently for every reception and can make a difference on each down.

Robinson will likely be flanked by rookies when all is said and done, but he's a heck of a way to get things started.

 

29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

Rob Gronkowski insurance is a must for the New England Patriots, and there's no better way to do it than with Jace Amaro.

Amaro is versatile and can line up at any spot on the field. ESPN's Louis Riddick breaks it down:

That's the perfect weapon for Tom Brady, yes?

 

30. San Francisco 49ers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

Best player available and need are rather cohesive for San Francisco near the end of the first round thanks to so many quality receivers still being on the board.

Chief among them is Brandin Cooks, a prototypical slot receiver who can create big plays thanks to his explosive game.

Most of the attention will go to Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, but Cooks will still find a way to craft a lengthy highlight reel, as he can score from anywhere on the field.

 

31. Denver Broncos: Kyle Van Noy, OLD, BYU

The Denver Broncos were a bit of a mess last season at linebacker, but Kyle Van Noy does much to solve a wealth of those issues thanks to his versatile skill set.

Some, such as Bleacher Report's Ryan Riddle, are of the mindset that he can turn out better than other hyped linebacker prospects:

Van Noy can cover and provide a rush. In Denver, that's all the unit needs as teams pass in an effort to keep up with an offense led by Peyton Manning.

 

32. Seattle Seahawks: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Luxury is such a beautiful thing, no?

Let's ask Seattle after the draft, as in this scenario the team gets a wideout prospect in Kelvin Benjamin who touts a ridiculous ceiling.

Benjamin needs some refinement, but he has the ability to turn heads despite being thrown into a run-first offense.

 

Note: All free-agency signing info courtesy of ESPN. All height/weight information courtesy of NFL.com

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