2014 NFL Mock Draft: Predictions with 1 Week Until the Draft
One week. After five months of college football games, four months of the draft process and an extra two weeks that NFL teams and those in the media could've done without, the 2014 NFL draft is just a week away.
Still, after all that time, predicting the first round of the draft quickly turns into educated guessing. But trends, final evaluations and team needs paint a picture that leads one to believe that predicting some picks is possible.
Without predicting trades, I've taken a stab at how I think the first round may play out. I've put a premium on putting the 32 guys I think will be first-rounders in these 32 picks as well.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
It seems clear by now that the Texans are interested in trading down to the highest bidder for Jadeveon Clowney, but I’d imagine they won’t just give up the best player in this draft. Clowney doesn’t fill a huge need, but adding him to the mix with J.J. Watt would give the Texans defense two elite rushers to keep Andrew Luck off balance for years.
Stephanie Stradley of the Houston Chronicle reports that her sources say Clowney will be the pick.
2. St. Louis Rams: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Rams have done well to fill their primary needs in the draft in recent years, so they’re in a position at No. 2 overall where they can pick the player with the highest upside. Jake Long is coming off of an injury, and the Rodger Saffold/Joseph Barksdale battle at right tackle isn’t ideal for the future of Sam Bradford.
Robinson has elite-level upside and could play left guard as a rookie before eventually taking over for Jake Long.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
After Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon, who is already on thin ice after being suspended last year, the Jaguars lack quality receivers for the future. Enter Sammy Watkins, the clear best receiver in this draft and a perfect fit for Jedd Fisch’s offense.
Grabbing Watkins here gives Chad Henne a fighting chance next year, along with adding another weapon for the Jaguars quarterback of the future, whether they take him in the second round or in the 2015 draft.
4. Cleveland Browns: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Most seem to be projecting a different Texas A&M player here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Browns opted to build their offense more instead of trying to fit Johnny Manziel into their team. Plus, there’s a good chance he, or another top quarterback, will be available at pick No. 26.
Evans paired with Josh Gordon gives the team two long, dominating receivers who could quickly become the best receiver duo in the AFC North.
5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
If both Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins are gone by the time the Raiders are on the clock, I’d expect them to seriously consider any trade-down options available. But with this scenario having Mack still available, the Raiders are easy to project.
Adding Mack to the recent signings of Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley would give this defense a talented pass rush to build around.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Falcons seem to be linked to trading up, but without predicting trades and with the potential price being awfully high for a team with multiple needs, they’re better off sitting at No. 6 and drafting the best offensive lineman available.
In this case, Jake Matthews can challenge at both tackle positions and potentially fit at guard as a rookie if need be. That versatility certainly helps a team in desperate need of offensive line support.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
With no starter-worthy receiver on the roster after Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans would be an ideal pick for the Bucs if he were available. In the event that he’s not, I think Lovie Smith and the Bucs opt to continue to build their offensive line.
Despite Demar Dotson playing well at right tackle last year, adding Taylor Lewan gives the offense two feature blockers (along with free-agent signing Anthony Collins) to keep Josh McCown (and their quarterback of the future) upright.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
I’ll start this off by saying that I don’t think Aaron Donald leaves the top 10 overall picks. He’s a remarkably talented interior rusher who fits perfectly in a 4-3 defense, and any of those 4-3 teams can find a role for him.
Mike Zimmer helped turn undersized 3-technique Geno Atkins into a Pro Bowler, and despite having Sharrif Floyd on the roster, Donald is a better fit for the defense and would give Minnesota a fearsome front four for the future.
9. Buffalo Bills: Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
While I’m sure Bills fans would love to get their hands on one of the top receivers, tight ends or pass-rushers in this class, the team’s biggest need, in my opinion, is offensive guard.
Zack Martin played left tackle in college, but with less-than-ideal arm length, his best fit in the NFL might be at guard. He can likely play four offensive line spots, so the versatility certainly doesn’t hurt either.
Martin told Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com:
I want to prove to everyone that I can be a tackle, but at the same time if a team drafted me and wanted me to move to guard, I’d be willing to do that. I’ve played tackle my entire career and I tell teams that I’m familiar with it and think I can be effective there. But at the same time I’m willing to play any position, and I think that’s one of my biggest strengths, is my versatility.
10. Detroit Lions: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Lions could use more receiver help, but addressing the secondary is a bigger concern, especially with this receiver class being as deep as it is.
While Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has injury concerns, he’s clearly the best safety in this class. He can step in as the team’s starter at free safety right away and provide support for the young, talented cornerback depth the Lions possess.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
As they switch to Ray Horton’s 3-4 defense, the Titans clearly need outside pass-rushing help. Akeem Ayers will face an edge-rusher learning curve as a 3-4 outside linebacker, while Shaun Phillips can’t be counted on as the every-down edge-rusher.
Anthony Barr possesses elite upside as a 3-4 outside linebacker and could be an instrumental part of the Titans' pass rush early in his career.
12. New York Giants: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
According to Jordan Raanan of NJ.com, the Giants don’t want Eric Ebron, which has been the most logical fit in the past. With that pick out the window, I think the Giants opt to build their defensive line, which has slowly depleted after being a strength for years.
Kony Ealy is the type of high-upside, versatile rusher the defensive staff has been known to develop.
13. St. Louis Rams: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
After letting Cortland Finnegan walk in free agency and choosing not to replace him, the Rams have a void at one of their cornerback spots.
Justin Gilbert isn’t my top-ranked cornerback due to concerns over his instincts and timing in off-man coverage, but his length and upside will certainly intrigue teams. He seems like a prospect Jeff Fisher would love to get his hands on.
14. Chicago Bears: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Chicago needs to continue its youth movement on defense, and cornerback is long overdue. With their top three cornerbacks being 30 or older, the Bears should address the position early and often.
With Darqueze Dennard, my top cornerback prospect, available, he seems like the most logical fit for the Bears and fits the defensive mindset of physicality and finishing on turnover opportunities.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The Steelers have a need on the defensive line, especially after letting former first-rounder Ziggy Hood go in free agency. While Ra’Shede Hageman has some motor question marks, his length, skill level and upside should remind scouts of the Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson, who’s been one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL the past two seasons.
In my opinion, he’s worth a top-20 pick.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
With the top defensive tackles and ends off the board, the Cowboys will likely look to move down to get added value without reaching here. If they can’t address the defensive front four, I think adding a safety makes the most sense.
After Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor is the next man up for teams looking for safety help in the first round. He would be a good fit in Dallas' Cover 2 defense.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
Keeping Eugene Monroe to play left tackle was a wise decision for the Ravens, but they still need help at the other tackle spot.
Morgan Moses hails from Virginia, just like Monroe, and has experience at right tackle. He’s not flashy (and not worth a first-rounder, in my opinion), but he’s had success against different types of pass-rushers in college and is an NFL-ready starter.
18. New York Jets: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Eric Decker was a nice addition to the Jets offense, as they needed as much as help as they could get on that side of the ball. However, finding a vertical threat is a must, both for offensive versatility and to give Geno Smith some playmakers like he had at West Virginia (Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey).
Brandin Cooks can fill that void, and while he may be limited as an outside receiver early in his NFL career, he has DeSean Jackson-level potential.
19. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
If I’m in charge of the Dolphins, I’m drafting the best offensive lineman—almost no questions asked—if I pick here or move down to gain more value. However, with a need at linebacker and Ryan Shazier viewed as the premier linebacker in the draft thanks to his athleticism and range, the fit makes sense enough to warrant top-20 consideration.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Eric Ebron has been linked to a handful of teams in the top 20, but based on team need, I think this is the lowest he goes.
Bruce Arians utilizes a vertical passing offense but doesn’t have a seam-stretching tight end to dominate the middle of the field. Ebron can fill that role for Carson Palmer and whomever takes the reins from him as the future quarterback of the Cardinals.
21. Green Bay Packers: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
Jimmie Ward doesn’t have a defined position, but his ability to play nickel cornerback and strong safety and finish plays as a tackle and turnover generator makes him an intriguing first-round option.
The Packers could use the help in the secondary, and Ward’s versatility would be coveted by the Packers defensive staff.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
The Eagles are likely comfortable with Brandon Boykin as one of their featured cornerbacks, but after him, they don’t have a clear-cut starter next year.
Roby may have off-field issues, but his elite speed should certainly excite Chip Kelly. Roby could go much earlier based on his talent level, and he would be a solid value for the Eagles here.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
The Chiefs need receiver help, as after Dwayne Bowe, they don’t have a receiver I’d feel comfortable starting. Odell Beckham could go as high as the top 15 picks, so securing him here would be fantastic value for Andy Reid and the Chiefs.
Adding Beckham to the offense would give this team another dangerous deep-play weapon to take some pressure off of Jamaal Charles to produce every game.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
With Leon Hall returning from injury and recent draft pick Dre Kirkpatrick looking like he may completely bust, the Bengals should strongly consider bolstering the cornerback position.
While Jason Verrett is undersized—under the 5’10” threshold the position usually requires—he’s arguably the most impressive cover corner on film. He can challenge for a starter role as a rookie and probably fill a slot cornerback role immediately.
25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame
The Chargers currently don’t have a nose tackle who should start in the NFL. It’s a glaring hole in the defense that they’d be wise to fill early in the draft.
While Louis Nix has some concerns surrounding him regarding whether he can play all three downs at the next level because of his playing weight as a junior at Notre Dame, he possesses the requisite size, lateral athleticism and double-team strength to last as a nose tackle in the NFL.
26. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Cleveland could very well take Johnny Football with the fourth overall pick, but there’s a chance that he slips this far due to quarterback-needy teams opting to wait until Day 2 for their passers.
Reuniting Manziel with Mike Evans, his college teammate and go-to weapon, would be a dream come true for the Browns and Manziel.
27. New Orleans Saints: Demarcus Lawrence, OLB, Boise State
New Orleans has a handful of needs on offense and defense, but addressing the outside linebacker role for Rob Ryan’s defense seems like the most glaring requirement based on the current depth chart.
Demarcus Lawrence has seemed to rise through the process thanks to great speed off the edge and positive athleticism to develop. The late first round seems like a realistic possibility.
28. Carolina Panthers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Marqise Lee should go much higher in the draft based on my evaluation and projection of what he can do in the NFL, but there’s a real chance he slips in the draft. With ankle injury concerns, a lackluster 2013 season and the depth this receiver class boasts, Lee may slide more than he expected once the first round comes and goes.
That being said, Cam Newton and the Panthers offense should welcome Lee’s slide with open arms.
29. New England Patriots: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
The Patriots won’t take a quarterback here. This is the only pick where I project a trade without picking a team that’ll move up for Blake Bortles.
The Patriots are known for always being open to trading down, and with teams like the Texans, Jaguars and Vikings refusing passers earlier in this mock draft, securing a quarterback like Bortles (or Derek Carr or Teddy Bridgewater) by moving up to the late first round seems like a real possibility.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech
The 49ers are dealing with quite a mess with the Aldon Smith situation, and while they’ve drafted for depth behind him, finding his future replacement may be a wise decision.
Jeremiah Attaochu doesn’t get nearly enough love in the media, but his rare explosiveness and speed to power off the edge makes him worth a first-round grade.
31. Denver Broncos: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
With injury concerns and the diminishing value of first-round linebackers in the NFL draft, talented linebacker C.J. Mosley may slip to the tail end of the first round.
The Broncos have starters set at linebacker, but they’ll likely welcome the slipping Mosley and find a home for him in their defense. He can start at either inside or strong-side linebacker.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA
The Super Bowl winners could consider a receiver like Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt or a defensive lineman like Dominique Easley of Florida with this pick, but I think shoring up their offensive line will be viewed as a higher priority.
Xavier Su’a-Filo can offer value at right tackle and guard for the Seahawks, who could use an upgrade at either spot for the future.