2014 NFL Mock Draft: Round 1 Picks That Teams Must Make

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2014 NFL Mock Draft: Round 1 Picks That Teams Must Make
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The speculation surrounding the 2014 NFL draft will only heat up in the coming days, but at this point most teams have a strong idea of where they want to go in Round 1.

With the draft just one week away, teams are in the process of finalizing their big boards. 

And while draft-day trades and shocking selections are sure to shake things up come May 8, here's a look at picks every first-round team must look to make in 2014.

 

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

The Houston Texans could always part ways with the top pick on draft night, but assuming they stay put, it's difficult to imagine them passing on a franchise-changing talent in Jadeveon Clowney.

Question marks surrounding his motor are legitimate based on his disappointing junior season at South Carolina, but there's no denying Clowney's physical gifts and limitless potential at the next level. 

 

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

St. Louis will want to bolster its offensive line with at least one of its picks in Round 1, and Auburn's Greg Robinson has tremendous potential as an exceptional all-around talent up front.

Robinson can protect Sam Bradford but also move bodies in the running game.

 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12): Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

The Jaguars need a franchise quarterback to help turn things around, and a local product in Blake Bortles could potentially be the answer at No. 3. Bortles boasts a strong frame (6'5", 232 lbs) and can make plays with his legs similarly to Pittsburgh Steelers passer Ben Roethlisberger

 

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

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Arguably the most explosive playmaker in this year's draft, Sammy Watkins has legitimate top-five potential and should hear his name called fairly early. 

Watkins certainly hasn't been shy when it comes to expressing his confidence, according to 95.7 The Game (via ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez):

I have some freakish talents and ability to make plays. I can jump, run catch, make somebody miss. That's my game.

I'm able to transition myself and work through tough conditions. I understand football and the preparation, so for me, it's getting in with the team I'm with and learn that playbook. That's all I need to do is really learn that playbook, and after that, just adjusting to the speed of the game and how cornerbacks play in the NFL. That would be the next step. I think after the first few games I'll be definitely fine.

By taking Watkins at No. 4, the Cleveland Browns could team him with the dynamic Josh Gordon next season and still have a shot at a quality quarterback with either their second first-round pick or second-round pick.

 

5. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

Quarterback is an undeniable need for Oakland, but with Bortles off the board, the Raiders could opt to add a fearsome pass-rusher in Khalil Mack, a player who has been talked about as a potential No. 1 pick in 2014.

 

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

With both Clowney and Mack off the board in this scenario, the Atlanta Falcons would be wise to address their shortcomings on the offensive line.

Protecting Matt Ryan will be vital to Atlanta's chances of contending in the NFC next season, and Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews has the tools to help keep Ryan upright. 

 

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

Tampa Bay needs another weapon to star opposite of veteran Vincent Jackson. Big-play threat Mike Evans possesses a similar frame (6'5", 231 lbs) to that of Jackson and would help give opposing defenses fits.

 

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

The Vikings have veteran signal-caller Matt Cassel under contract, but everyone knows he's not the long-term answer under center. Look for Minnesota to target a quarterback in the top 10. With Bortles already gone, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater is a likely candidate. 

 

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

Taylor Lewan's stock is rising rapidly ahead of the draft and considering Buffalo's need at tackle, the former Michigan standout makes perfect sense for the Bills at No. 9. 

 

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

We know about the Detroit Lions offense, but if the Lions are going to turn the corner and return in the playoffs next season, they need to retool on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the secondary. 

Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a natural playmaker at safety who could provide a long-term anchor on the back end.

 

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

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Johnny Manziel is unpredictable on the field, but it's just as dicey to try to predict where he'll land when it comes to the 2014 NFL draft. There's no telling where he'll wind up going, but if he falls out of the top 10, watch for a team that can afford to sit him next season to emerge. 

The Tennessee Titans have a quarterback in Jake Locker but could use a better long-term option. 

 

12. New York Giants (7-9): Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh 

The Giants have needs at wide receiver and in the secondary but would be wise to address their losses on the defensive line in Round 1. Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald is a stud defensive tackle whose quickness and anticipation separate him. 

 

13. St. Louis Rams (7-9): Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

With the tackle spot addressed at No. 2 overall, the Rams can look to add an offensive playmaker at No. 13 overall. LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. has experience running an NFL route tree and uses his speed and instincts to make big plays after the catch. 

 

14. Chicago Bears (8-8): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

The Chicago Bears defense was a shell of itself in 2013, surrendering an eye-popping number of yards and points. Therefore, Chicago would be wise to upgrade at the cornerback position. 

Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard displays stellar instincts in coverage and has the ball skills to make plays at the next level.

 

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Pittsburgh must get younger and more athletic in the defensive secondary in order to return to the postseason. Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller allows the Steelers to address those issues midway through Round 1.

 

16. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Dee Ford, DE, Auburn

The Dallas Cowboys need to add a pass-rusher after losing DeMarcus Ware in free agency. Auburn's Dee Ford put the NFL on notice at the Senior Bowl back in January, and, despite being undersized, is one of the strongest edge-rushers in this year's draft.

 

17. Baltimore Ravens (8-8): Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

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Protecting Joe Flacco should be a top priority for the Baltimore Ravens heading into next season. And that's why Notre Dame's Zack Martin is an excellent fit at this spot. 

A versatile tackle who gained tremendous experience in college and could potentially transition to guard at the next level, Martin will be a coveted prospect after Robinson, Matthews and Lewan all find homes early in Round 1.

 

18. New York Jets (8-8): Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Don't be surprised if the New York Jets address their needs on the offensive line or at wide receiver in the first round. But with playmaking cornerback Justin Gilbert still on the board in this scenario, it's difficult to imagine Rex Ryan and the Jets passing on him. 

 

19. Miami Dolphins (8-8): Ja'Wuan James, OT, Tennessee 

While Virginia's Morgan Moses is a possible selection at this spot, the Miami Dolphins could take the underrated Ja'Wuan James, who stands out in pass protection as he's light on his feet and able to neutralize elite pass-rushers.

 

20. Arizona Cardinals (10-6): Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville 

If the Ravens don't snag Louisville's Calvin Pryor at No. 17, the Arizona Cardinals will likely give him a long look at No. 20. After all, Arizona could use some depth in the secondary, and Pryor's hard-hitting style would be a huge pickup in the NFC West.

 

21. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1): Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina 

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With Jermichael Finley suffering a devastating neck injury last season and hitting the free-agent market, tight end has become a key need for the Green Bay Packers, and what a weapon Eric Ebron would be in an offense directed by Aaron Rodgers.

 

22. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6): C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

Alabama's C.J. Mosley has very few weaknesses in his game and would be an ideal pickup for the Eagles at No. 22 if he's still available. Although Chip Kelly specializes in offense, Philadelphia needs to improve defensively in order to take the next step in 2014.

 

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

There's a ton of star potential surrounding Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin, but if he isn't able to capitalize on his physical gifts, he has tremendous bust potential as well. 

His massive frame (6'5", 240 lbs) has drawn comparisons to Calvin Johnson, but he'll have to develop more consistent hands in order to become a star at the next level.

 

24. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5): Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

Kony Ealy's versatility and potential to make an impact right away are both traits that make him a potential target for the Cincinnati Bengals, who are in need of a pass-rusher after watching Michael Johnson depart in free agency

 

25. San Diego Chargers (9-7): Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

San Diego needs help in the secondary, especially considering the Chargers play the Denver Broncos twice during the regular season and could potentially meet them again in the playoffs. 

TCU's Jason Verrett changes direction in a hurry and plays much bigger than his undersized frame (5'9", 189 lbs).

 

26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis (11-5)): Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

The Browns could target a quarterback like Alabama's A.J. McCarron at this spot, but seeing as they will find themselves on the clock again at No. 35 overall, they would be smart to bolster their defense with a topflight talent like Ohio State's Ryan Shazier.

Shazier has tremendous range versus the run and would be an excellent fit in Cleveland.

 

27. New Orleans Saints (11-5): Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

Bradley Roby has had more than his fair share of difficulties off the field but remains one of the top cornerbacks available in 2014. And after adding safety Jairus Byrd in free agency, the New Orleans Saints should continue to strengthen their secondary by adding Roby's elite coverage skills to the mix.

 

28. Carolina Panthers (11-5): Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

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Carolina has a glaring need at wide receiver and could add an element of speed to the starting lineup by drafting Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, whose separation skills are second to none. 

 

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

At 6'5", 310 pounds, Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman is an intimidating presence and a superb athlete for his size. Hageman would add youth to New England's aging defensive front and would have time to improve his technique while playing for a Super Bowl contender. 

 

30. San Francisco 49ers (12-4): Marqise Lee, WR, USC

San Francisco is short on playmakers in the passing game and would likely jump at the chance to land Marqise Lee at No. 30 overall. Lee had a down year in 2013 but possesses big-play ability and impressive in-game speed. 

 

31. Denver Broncos (13-3): Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

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The Broncos could definitely use some depth on defense, and if UCLA's Anthony Barr slips past the middle of Round 1, he would provide an excellent value pick for Denver toward the end of the opening round.

As ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay notes (via The Dallas Morning News' Jon Machota), Barr is somewhat of a risky pick for those teams on the clock early: 

At this stage of Round 1, the potential reward would be worth the risk for a team like Denver.

 

32. Seattle Seahawks (13-3): Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

Seattle's dominant defensive front was key to its impressive Super Bowl run in 2013. And after parting ways with Red Bryant back in February, the Seahawks should aim to fill the void left on the defensive line by adding a physical specimen in Stephon Tuitt.

At 6'5", 305 pounds, Tuitt's size and talent make him a coveted prospect for any team in need of help on defense. However, concerns about his motor are likely to cause him to slip. But if there's a team capable of getting the most from him, it's Pete Carroll's Seahawks.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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