2014 NFL Mock Draft: Matt Miller's Final 7-Round Picks
What will happen when the 2014 NFL draft officially begins? Which prospects will your favorite team add? Where will your favorite college player line up next season?
Hundreds of people will try to tell you what will happen when the 2014 draft kicks off, but my job in this seven-round mock draft is to tell you what should happen—based on team needs, my player rankings and trends in the draft.
That's an important distinction to make. This mock draft isn't a prediction of what will happen Thursday night—even if some of the picks line up with what each NFL team might do. This seven-round mock is the result of looking at each team's current roster and future needs, and matching those to find the player who best carries the traits needed for the team's scheme and coaches.
So who comes off the board first?
All NFL Scouting Combine numbers are courtesy of NFL.com. An asterisk denotes a compensatory pick.
1. Houston Texans
The Houston Texans have plenty of needs—and 11 picks in this draft—so they can be aggressive with the first overall pick. A trade out of this spot remains very possible, but if the Texans decide to keep the pick, they should focus on two positions: quarterback and pass-rusher.
On my personal big board only two players are worth that first overall pick—Jadeveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater, for reasons related to a workout in shorts and not his actual career, doesn't seem to be in consideration for this pick. Clowney, on the other hand, is the slam-dunk choice to go No. 1 overall.
The Pick: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Clowney is tied for the top spot on my Big Board with Bridgewater, but he is a once-in-a-decade type of talent. He's comparable to Julius Peppers, Jevon Kearse, Ndamukong Suh and Von Miller as the best pass-rushing college players I've ever evaluated. That's pretty great company to be in.
Clowney may not be the ideal fit for a base 3-4 defense, but that's not all that relevant anymore. Most NFL teams are in their nickel or dime packages over 50 percent of the time. That means a four-man front with J.J. Watt lined up as a defensive tackle (3-technique) and Clowney wreaking havoc as a right defensive end (6-technique).
The prospect of having two amazing rushers on each side of the line is too good to pass up, especially in the AFC South, where Andrew Luck shows up on the schedule twice per year. The Texans do need a quarterback, but head coach Bill O'Brien can develop a quality passer drafted in the top of the second round. He wouldn't be able to find an athlete comparable to Clowney there.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)
In all likelihood, St. Louis will trade this pick on draft day. Les Snead, general manager of the Rams, loves to wheel and deal, and the No. 2 overall pick holds tremendous value in such a deep draft.
The Rams have put the pick up for sale, but in a mock draft without trades predicted, it's important to think about what they would do if their asking price isn't met. What if the Atlanta Falcons are only interested in trading up for Clowney? Then the Rams would need to have a plan to use this pick.
With needs at wide receiver, cornerback, free safety and along the offensive line, the Rams can go a number of directions here, but only one player at those areas of need is a value at pick No. 2.
The Pick: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
The Rams have invested heavily in wide receivers, but none have paid off. If this is the year to find out whether or not Sam Bradford can be the team's franchise quarterback, he needs weapons around him. Watkins would give them a legitimate option at wide receiver, filling the role Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Brian Quick and Chris Givens have struggled to step into.
Watkins brings size, power and speed to the position, and with Jared Cook, Kenny Britt and Austin Pettis also in the lineup, he could open things up in an offense that desperately needs a spark in the passing game.
While an offensive tackle could be the pick here, the Rams have a good duo with Jake Long (once healthy) and Joe Barksdale. Head coach Jeff Fisher can win with those tackles.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a team in need of talent on both sides of the ball. No position, though, is more important to the rebuild of this franchise than quarterback.
Veteran Chad Henne has been kept on as a short-term option and/or mentor to a young quarterback, but it will be very tough for the Jaguars to pass on a signal-caller here—especially if they value them as I do in this loaded class.
If the Jaguars find themselves willing to wait on a quarterback, Khalil Mack from Buffalo is the only other viable option for this pick with Clowney and Watkins off the board.
The Pick: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
The NFL may not value Bridgewater as highly as I do—he's tied for my top overall player—but this is a mock draft of what should happen, and the Jaguars should draft Bridgewater.
With Henne there, Bridgewater wouldn't have to play immediately, but he can and should be given the chance to win the starting job. With his pre-snap IQ and post-snap smoothness, the former Louisville signal-caller would give the Jaguars something they haven't had since Mark Brunell—a true franchise quarterback.
4. Cleveland Browns
With two picks in the first round, the Cleveland Browns can be flexible with the No. 4 overall selection. And with a roster full of needs, it makes sense for new general manager Ray Farmer to stay here and grab the most talented player on the board.
The Browns have clearly identified needs at quarterback, cornerback and even middle linebacker, but how many players on the board are values at those positions? Just one.
The Pick: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Johnny Football isn't ranked inside my top 10 players, but his potential is too good to ignore when you're a quarterback-starved team. And the Browns are definitely that.
The Browns have the ideal setup for Manziel too, with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in place, a good offensive line and some dynamic threats at receiver and tight end. This isn't a finished offense, but Manziel thrives in chaos and could be the spark plug this team needs.
5. Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders appear to be in win-now mode after a second straight offseason of bringing in veterans to fill holes instead of rolling the dice on the draft. General manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen are in Year 3 and must show improvement to keep owner Mark Davis happy.
The additions of Matt Schaub (quarterback), Donald Penn (left tackle), Austin Howard (guard), James Jones (wide receiver) and Maurice Jones-Drew (running back) filled most of the team's biggest needs before the draft started. With few openings for a rookie to step into in 2014, the Raiders can truly draft the best player available.
The Pick: OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
Greg Robinson has the skills to come in and play multiple spots right away. He could start at right tackle for a season and then replace Penn on the left side. He could play right guard if they decide to keep Howard at tackle. But the fact of that matter is that the Raiders have no one on the roster with the potential of Robinson.
The athletic, strong redshirt sophomore from Auburn has "Hall of Fame potential," according to our own Chris Simms. He's a rare blend of tools, and given some seasoning Robinson has the traits to be an elite NFL tackle. The Raiders can't pass on that.
6. Atlanta Falcons
A team consistently linked to trades in the first round, the Atlanta Falcons may not be picking in this spot come May 8. Whether it moves up the board or down remains to be seen, but you can bet on general manager Thomas Dimitroff being aggressive about improving his football team.
Looking at the Falcons' needs, the two biggest areas of improvement need to come on the edge. Left tackle and pass-rusher have to be upgraded for the team to start contending for the NFC South crown after a down year in 2013.
The inability to protect quarterback Matt Ryan—and injuries to wide receivers—was the undoing of this offense last year. That coupled with the fact the Falcons couldn't pressure the quarterback on defense really led to an embarrassing year for the defending No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Two needs, and there's plenty of value on the board still.
The Pick: OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
When determining which player a team will pick in the first round, you have to look at what's expected to be available in Round 2. If the Falcons take a left tackle at pick No. 6, can they find a pass-rusher in the second round whom they like enough to start—and vice versa?
The class of edge-rushers is very good, but none have the talent or upside of Khalil Mack. And while the depth at tackle isn't great, there are starters to be found at pick No. 37. It's also possible the team rolls with Sam Baker again and focuses instead on solidifying the right side of the line while hoping he returns to his 2012 form.
Mack would give defensive coordinator Mike Nolan the defensive weapon he lost when Atlanta released John Abraham. He's violent and fast. He also has amazing instincts for the football. Mack is good enough that the Falcons may just need to get up to pick No. 2 to land him.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
General manager Jason Licht's first year on the job will be a tough one. The team must identify a quarterback of the future, fix a broken wide receiver depth chart and add pieces at offensive guard, defensive tackle and defensive end. But first, wide receiver is a glaring need.
The release of Mike Williams this offseason wasn't a major shock, but the Buccaneers find themselves in need of talent at wide receiver. This is a position already thin heading into the spring, and losing Williams only intensifies the demand.
The Pick: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Head coach Lovie Smith's last year in Chicago featured Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery at wide receiver. Could he look to build a new version of that duo in Tampa?
By adding a big body like Mike Evans to pair with Vincent Jackson, Smith would have his big, post-up wide receivers to run a vertical offense with. Like Jeffery, Evans is an exceptional box-out receiver with strong hands and an incredible vertical ability (37" jump at the combine). His body control, focus and upside mirror that of the former South Carolina star.
If Evans can live up to the potential he flashed at A&M, the Buccaneers won't have to worry about one wide receiver spot for a long time.
8. Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings started off the 2014 offseason with a great move—hiring Mike Zimmer to be their head coach. But now they have to give him a team to work with, and that all starts at quarterback.
Sure, the Vikings could stand to get better at pass-rusher and cornerback, but no position is as important to their long-term success as quarterback. Even with Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder on the roster, a young passer with better long-term potential must be added.
The Pick: QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
The good thing about having both Ponder and Cassel for the 2014 season is that whomever the team drafts at No. 8 won't be forced into action right away. And that's the best-case scenario for Blake Bortles.
The Central Florida quarterback looks the part and moves in a way that makes you think he's imitating Andrew Luck, but his mechanics and field vision need work. Coming from UCF, he needs to learn to read an NFL defense. And for all their faults as starting quarterbacks, Ponder and Cassel can teach young Bortles plenty about how to (and how not to) play the position in the NFL.
9. Buffalo Bills
General manager Doug Whaley's first draft in Buffalo will be interesting to watch. After time spent under former GM Buddy Nix, Whaley's scouting skills are fine-tuned. But what does he value in prospects—and what areas on this roster does he see as weak?
From an outside view, the Bills are in a good position to draft the best player available. If you want to take a step deeper, offensive tackle and tight end stand out as the biggest areas of need. The good news for Whaley is that the draft has high-value players at both positions—and they're still on the board.
The Pick: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Jake Matthews is the type of player you'd pick No. 1 overall in most drafts—in fact, he would have been in the running for the first choice in last year's draft with Eric Fisher and teammate Luke Joeckel. Now, one year more developed and having spent a season at left tackle, he's ready for the pros.
Matthews is interesting in that he can legitimately play any of the five positions on the offensive line and play them well. Some teams I've spoken to like him as an All-Pro candidate at center, while others see a Joe Thomas-like technician at left tackle.
The Bills can use him and Cordy Glenn at either tackle position and have one of the best young duos at tackle in the game.
10. Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions have enjoyed a nice run of adding premier talent, but too often that hasn't resulted in wins. That's why Jim Caldwell is in as the new head coach. He'll be tasked with building a complete team and getting the Lions back into playoff contention in one of the league's best divisions.
To keep pace with the wide receivers in the NFC North—Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery—the Lions need to improve their secondary and add at least one pass-rusher for Teryl Austin's schemes on defense.
The Pick: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
With pick No. 10 the Lions can truly add the best player available on defense—but it would be a major surprise for them to look at a middle linebacker or defensive tackle here. Instead, a cornerback or free safety is the likely selection. With top-ranked cornerback Justin Gilbert on the board, this is an easy decision.
Some will say Rashean Mathis, Chris Houston, Bill Bentley and Darius Slay are good enough at cornerback, but are they? Slay has good upside, but neither Mathis nor Houston is a true No. 1 corner. Gilbert would be just that within his first few seasons. Few cornerbacks have his size (6'0", 202 lbs), speed (4.37 in the 40 at the combine) and ball skills. His ability to immediately impact the game as a cover man and returner makes this a value and need pick.
11. Tennessee Titans
A new coaching staff in Tennessee means a big change in schemes for the Titans on defense. But with head coach Ken Whisenhunt's background as a quarterback guru, the team could be tempted to grab a Derek Carr type at pick No. 11. The front office may disagree, though, as the need for a pass-rusher is big.
The Titans are unique in that they can truly select the best player available. A left tackle could be needed after Michael Roos hits the open market in 2015. A cornerback could slide in opposite Jason McCourty to replace Alterraun Verner. Even at quarterback—where Jake Locker is only under contract for another season—there could be a need.
The Pick: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
Anthony Barr isn't the safest pick, but he does have tremendous upside. At 6'5", 255 pounds, this former running back has serious athleticism and potential. In his two seasons as an outside linebacker for UCLA he showed tremendous growth and playmaking ability. And in Ray Horton's defense, Barr could become his John Abraham-type rusher.
The Titans will be tempted by other talent on the board, but Barr's upside is too good to pass up.
12. New York Giants
Less than a week before the NFL draft, there's speculation that the New York Giants will address the offensive line with this pick. Speculation, though, can be wrong. The Giants may want to upgrade over William Beatty—once they can move his monster salary after the 2014 season—but finding difference-makers on offense and defense must be the focus.
With Eli Manning coming off his worst year—and as many as three new starters on the offensive line added in free agency—the Giants' focus could go toward adding a pass-catcher. Losing Hakeem Nicks in free agency opens the door for this pick to be at a skill position.
The Pick: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
One thing Manning hasn't had recently is a game-changer at tight end. Eric Ebron has the potential to be one right out of the gate.
Ebron's size-and-speed combination is elite, and he's an explosive player after the catch who can open up the middle of the field. Ebron is also a good blocker and can play in line to fuel the outside run game. He's a chess piece the offense can unleash in numerous ways, and that's really what the Giants have lacked.
13. St. Louis Rams
With the No. 2 overall pick the Rams added a dynamic, explosive wide receiver in Sammy Watkins. Now they need the same kind of player on defense.
The front four and linebacker positions are in good shape, with only depth and future needs. The secondary, though, needs a lot more attention. Free safety is a key position in Gregg Williams' defense, and the Rams can't roll out Rodney McLeod in that spot. Likewise, at cornerback the team must replace the released Cortland Finnegan and add more depth at the position.
Adding a pass-rushing 3-technique defensive tackle here wouldn't be a surprise, but the Rams can't afford to ignore the secondary.
The Pick: FS Ha'Sean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix fits the mold of what the Rams need at free safety. He has the range to play over the top of the defense and can still come into the box and make hits on the ball-carrier. He may not be Earl Thomas, but few prospects are. Clinton-Dix can play that same role for the Rams, though, giving them a deep defender with three-down impact potential.
14. Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears have built an exciting, thorough offense during Phil Emery's time as general manager. Now they need to rebuild a defense that's fallen on very hard times.
With needs at virtually every position on defense, Emery and head coach Marc Trestman can realistically draft the best defensive player available and put him to work immediately. Whether that's a cornerback, defensive tackle, linebacker or safety, the Bears have room for an instant-impact defender.
The Pick: DT Aaron Donald, Pitt
Aaron Donald's 2013 season was one of the more dominant a college football player has had in a long while. At 6'1", 285 pounds, he wasn't thought to fit the mold of what an NFL pass-rushing defensive tackle would look like, but then he continued to dominate blockers throughout the season and at the Senior Bowl, and he tested off the charts at the combine.
Donald would be the starting 3-technique from day one for the Bears, filling out a defensive line that features new starters in Lamarr Houston, Willie Young and Jared Allen.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers' primary goal this draft must be to improve the youth of their team. Long-term success has led to too many veterans hanging on to jobs they're no longer cut out for. General manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin must make the tough decisions to start turning over the roster in 2014.
The Pick: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
By draft night there's a good chance Taylor Lewan is well off the board by pick No. 15, but in this "what should happen" mock, he's here for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The team had good success with Kelvin Beachum at left tackle in 2013, but realistically he's a guard. With Lewan on the left and Beachum, Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro in the middle, the Steelers can keep Marcus Gilbert at right tackle and have a very good starting five.
Lewan isn't a polished blocker, but he is a great athlete at the position and has shown dominant flashes on film over the last three seasons. That's what teams are banking on in the top 15.
16. Dallas Cowboys
Few people would have thought one year ago that DeMarcus Ware wouldn't be in Dallas this season, but he's lining up at defensive end in Denver after a showdown over his contract. Now the Cowboys must focus on continuing to rebuild a defense that lacks many key players.
But defense isn't the only need. The Cowboys need help at both guard spots and must find a No. 3 wide receiver. It's easy to assume a defender will be the pick here, but Jerry Jones has taught us to never safely assume anything when the Cowboys are on the clock.
The Pick: DE/DT Kony Ealy, Missouri
Trying to predict this pick is impossible, but here's what the Cowboys should do—draft Kony Ealy.
The Missouri right defensive end has the frame to play end or tackle and could do so in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. He would give the Cowboys a pass rush at defensive end in his rookie season, but he has the potential to add 10-15 pounds and become a very athletic, quick 3-technique pass-rusher.
Ealy can't replace Ware, but he can give the Cowboys a major boost in terms of age (22), athleticism and upside on defense.
17. Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens have a few glaring needs to address in this draft, which makes it very possible they try to move pick No. 17 for additional selections. General manager Ozzie Newsome is a shrewd draft-day technician, and he'll get the team in the best position to reload the roster.
At pick No. 17, the Ravens could look to add a starting right tackle, draft a young wide receiver or continue to add youth on defense after several years of focus there. The right pick is one of value and need, though, and that's not always easy to identify.
The Pick: T/G Zack Martin, Notre Dame
If Zack Martin is on the board, the Ravens can sprint to the podium. The Notre Dame left tackle has All-Pro potential as a guard but could be just as good at right tackle. He would instantly replace Ricky Wagner at that spot and give the Ravens the balance they need along the offensive line.
While a wide receiver like Odell Beckham would be intriguing here, the talent at wide receiver is much greater than the top-end talent at tackle. This pick is about value as much as anything, and the Ravens can afford to grab a third or fourth wide receiver in Round 2.
18. New York Jets
The New York Jets' biggest offseason moves involved keeping head coach Rex Ryan and losing quarterback Mark Sanchez. Now general manager John Idzik's second draft must bring playmakers on offense and continue to build depth on defense while focusing on improving the secondary for Ryan's schemes.
At pick No. 18, the Jets can go in many directions. A press-coverage cornerback would make sense here, but not if it's a reach in terms of value. The team can't afford to pass on a speed receiver, even after signing Eric Decker in free agency.
The Pick: WR Odell Beckham, LSU
If the Jets had their way, this is how the draft would fall. Being able to stay at pick No. 18 and add a dynamic, big-play wide receiver is everything they could hope for.
Odell Beckham isn't just a wide receiver, though, as he has huge ability as a return man. Think of DeSean Jackson when trying to picture how a team will use the fleet-footed LSU wide receiver. He can line up in the slot, go in motion or play outside the hashes. With his speed, hands and after-the-catch skills, Beckham will open up the stale New York offense.
19. Miami Dolphins
The offensive line is an obvious point of need for the Miami Dolphins—especially the right side—but the team cannot afford to start reaching for players who aren't a good value. Zack Martin would be a great pick here, but he's off the board. So the team either reaches for Cyrus Kouandjio or Morgan Moses, or it looks at other positions.
This is a young team, but it needs help at tight end, receiver and running back, depth at defensive tackle and could stand to reshuffle the linebacker corps. That gives first-year general manager Dennis Hickey options.
The Pick: ILB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley might not seem like a need pick, but he is. Mosley can play any of the three linebacker positions in a 4-3 scheme and would allow the Dolphins the flexibility to move Dannell Ellerbe if they decide he's not a great fit at the "Mike" position.
Mosley is a top-10 talent, but in a draft this deep it's difficult to place him with a team higher up the board. In Miami, his range and athleticism would allow him to flourish behind a very good defensive line. Mosley's ability to impact the game as a tackler, blitzer and coverage linebacker is exactly what the Dolphins lacked in 2013.
20. Arizona Cardinals
Bruce Arians' first year as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals was a good one. The team surprised most everyone with a 10-6 finish and looks to be on the rise with a young roster supported by key veterans like Carson Palmer, John Abraham and Darnell Dockett.
Now the pressure is on general manager Steve Keim and the front office to get the team over the playoff hump. Which moves can be made to compete with the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers for the NFC West crown?
The Pick: QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
Drafting a quarterback who might not play for a year or two probably doesn't strike fans as a win-now move, but it's the right pick. Keim and Arians can't become so focused on 2014 that they forget their quarterback, Palmer, is 34 years old and has already considered retirement once.
Palmer has been very good for Arizona, but the team must keep an eye on the future. A sure-fire way to lose the arms race in the NFC West would be to have a major drop-off at quarterback once Palmer retires. By drafting Carr—who is an ideal fit in Arians' downfield scheme—the team insures itself time to develop and coach him up before he's asked to take over.
21. Green Bay Packers
No one can predict what Packers general manager Ted Thompson will do on draft day, but that's why this mock draft focuses on what should happen. And the reigning NFC North champions should be looking at adding speed on defense.
The Packers have become banged-up on defense in years past, and each of the last two seasons they've struggled to contain running quarterbacks (namely the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick). The lack of a pass rush once Clay Matthews was hurt didn't help things either, but they added Julius Peppers in the offseason to provide some push on the other side.
With pick No. 21 the Packers will go with the best player on their board, but that board is stacked by need.
The Pick: FS Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
Calvin Pryor is the higher-rated player, but is he a fit with a team that already has a hitter at safety in Morgan Burnett? The Packers need range and coverage, which is why Jimmie Ward is the pick.
The Northern Illinois safety has range and great cover skills from both the slot or the single-high spot. He can run with receivers and has shown an aggressive ability to attack passes or ball-carriers. He's far from timid and may be too wound up at times—but that's what Dom Capers' defense needs.
22. Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly's offense is in good hands, and with few needs on that side of the ball (wide receiver and offensive guard), the front office can focus on continuing to rebuild the defense. General manager Howie Roseman's staff has found good players of value all throughout the draft, but it needs a home run hitter in Round 1 this year.
The team is solid at defensive end, but every other spot on defense could see a player drafted. Cornerback is the second-strongest position, but every team can justify adding a top-tier cornerback if one is available. With a "best player available on defense" mentality here, the Eagles have plenty of options.
The Pick: OLB Dee Ford, Auburn
The Eagles picked up linebacker Connor Barwin in free agency last year, but they're rolling with Trent Cole and Brandon Graham opposite him. Neither player truly fits what the Eagles seem to want on defense, and an upgrade at outside linebacker is needed.
Dee Ford is an interesting player, because like Cole and Graham, he's not very big (6'2", 252 lbs). What he has going for him are incredibly long arms (32.875"), great first-step speed and a tenacity rarely seen in college pass-rushers. He may not fit the profile for many teams, but his explosion off the line would be tough to overlook in a 3-4 defense.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
Head coach Andy Reid inherited a Kansas City Chiefs team with a stout defense, impressive running game and little else. He added quarterback Alex Smith and bolstered the offensive line, but now the team is left trying to fill the remaining holes.
One of the biggest areas of need on the roster comes at wide receiver. Dwayne Bowe is very good, but Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins opposite him do little to frighten defenses. The team could easily go with a wide receiver in Round 1—especially with no second-round pick.
The Pick: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Brandin Cooks has to remind Reid of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin—two of his favorites from Philadelphia, and both exceptional yards-after-catch players. Cooks, the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner as college football's best receiver, has the burst to separate before and after the catch.
He's a dynamic playmaker in a similar mold to Tavon Austin, and Reid could definitely find a use for him in a creative role opposite Bowe.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals are on a run of three straight playoff seasons, yet that doesn't seem to be enough. Fans want a playoff win, and the talent all around this roster is good enough to justify that. Now it's time for head coach Marvin Lewis to patch the final holes and look for players who may be upgrades down the road.
The team's biggest need comes at cornerback, where Leon Hall struggles to stay healthy and Dre Kirkpatrick is far from a sure thing. With a deep corner class and just one (Justin Gilbert) off the board so far, the Bengals have their pick of the litter.
The Pick: CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
Fuller has all the tools of a top-tier, physical man-coverage cornerback. The trick is keeping him healthy, as he's struggled with bumps and bruises at Virginia Tech.
On pure tools, Fuller deserves to be off the board much sooner than this, but team needs and questions about injuries happen to push him down the board. On Thursday night, don't be surprised if he's a top-15 pick.
25. San Diego Chargers
It's Year 2 of a new regime in San Diego, and the team is focused on getting back to the playoffs. That's possible with another strong draft class. Like it did in 2013, the front office must add an instant-impact player tailor-made for its scheme. Last year's class brought D.J. Fluker, Manti Te'o and Keenan Allen, and now general manager Tom Telesco is off to another strong start.
The Pick: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
The Chargers have immediate needs at cornerback—unless you like Richard Marshall and Shareece Wright. Even if they remain starters, NFL teams are in a three-cornerback (or more) formation over 50 percent of the time. The idea that a depth chart needs just two solid cornerbacks is outdated. That's why Darqueze Dennard is a smart pick here.
Dennard has the man-coverage skills you want, but he falls down the board due to questions about speed, injuries and a grabby coverage style that may hinder his translation to the NFL. But his zero coverage skills are defined, and that's worth a first-round pick.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis)
The Browns got their quarterback at pick No. 4 overall. Now they need another target for Johnny Manziel and the passing game.
The front office must weigh drafting offensive skill players against improving a defense that still needs help at cornerback and inside linebacker. There's also the strong possibility on draft day of a trade down here to acquire more picks if the value is right.
Should Cleveland keep the pick, there's an exciting wide receiver still on the board.
The Pick: WR Cody Latimer, Indiana
Cody Latimer may seem like a late riser in this predraft process, but he's been slowed by a broken toe since January and was only able to run within the last few weeks. Once he was healthy, teams took notice. When watching his film, you see flashes of brilliance with super-strong hands. Coaches feel like they can round out Latimer's raw tools and turn him into a star.
With Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron there to keep defenses honest, Latimer could have a very big first season in Cleveland.
27. New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints are one of the top-tier teams in the NFL, but that's largely due to Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham. To truly contend for another Super Bowl before Brees retires, the front office has to reload this roster on both sides of the ball.
The Pick: WR Davante Adams, Fresno State
Marques Colston and Kenny Stills are both very qualified at wide receiver, but the Saints love to spread the field and throw the ball around. Losing Lance Moore and Darren Sproles will affect their ability to do that, unless they're replaced.
Davante Adams is like a junior version of Michael Crabtree. The redshirt sophomore isn't quite developed as a route-runner, but he has exceptionally strong hands, good vision and enough speed (4.56 combine 40-yard dash time) to keep things interesting after the catch. With his size and strength (6'1", 212 lbs) he could also allow Stills to play more in the slot, where he's a matchup nightmare for defenses.
28. Carolina Panthers
An offseason of defections has left the Carolina Panthers with an empty cupboard at many spots. Add that to existing holes in the roster due to age or poor play, and this is a big offseason for general manager Dave Gettleman and company.
The team has needs at both tackle spots, both starting wide receiver spots, both cornerback spots and both safety spots. Youth is needed at defensive end. That's a tall order, and it won't all be filled in this draft. The job of general manager means knowing when to defer needs to the next year and knowing which spots you can skirt by on with existing talent.
With pick No. 28, the Panthers are in true "best player other than a quarterback or running back" territory.
The Pick: OT Morgan Moses, Virginia
The big man from Virginia would be a day-one starter for the Panthers, most likely at right tackle. Moses has played both the left and right side for the Cavaliers but doesn't have the explosive lower body to handle speed-rushers off the left edge of the line.
Moses' reach and agility would be ideal for a scrambling quarterback like Cam Newton, though, as he's shown the length and punch to fan out defenders and open up rushing lanes off his inside shoulder for backs. Moses is also still learning the position and has put in considerable work since the season ended in December. In addition, he looked more fluid at the Senior Bowl and combine than he did during the season.
29. New England Patriots
The New England Patriots consistently remain one of the NFL's best teams even though they are always picking in the late 20s of the first round. That's a testament to Bill Belichick and Tom Brady but also to the ability of the staff to plug in guys and get production.
In the 2014 draft they need to find more of those—on both sides of the ball. This is a team that's getting long in the tooth along both lines. Existing needs at wide receiver could force the team's hand in Round 1, but look for Belichick to spend a lot of time worrying about his line play.
The Pick: DT Dominique Easley, Florida
Were it not for two ACL tears—one to each knee—Dominique Easley could be contending with Aaron Donald for the top defensive tackle spot. Once teams saw Easley's rehab progress, it became clear he wouldn't last long on draft day.
Much like Tank Carradine last year, Easley can be drafted and stashed on the physically unable to perform list to start the season if need be. But in New England he's the second coming of Richard Seymour in that he will allow the Patriots to play either a 3-4 or 4-3 front without bringing him off the field. His athleticism—as long as it comes back post-surgery—is eye-opening for a man his size.
30. San Francisco 49ers
With six selections in the first 100 picks, the San Francisco 49ers can be very aggressive on draft day. If they hold the pick at No. 30, they'll also have plenty of options.
The smart money has San Francisco looking at wide receiver or cornerback in Round 1. The team could then address needs at strong safety and center in Rounds 2 or 3. If the 49ers don't move up the board for Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans, holding pat and grabbing Allen Robinson is a nice consolation prize.
The Pick: WR Allen Robinson, Penn State
Robinson has the size (6'2", 220 lbs) and speed teams want. His after-the-catch ability was incredible at Penn State, and he runs with power and quickness to find daylight. Robinson may not be the deep threat the 49ers seemingly need, but he would be a shoo-in replacement for Anquan Boldin after 2014. In the meantime he could add another big-play threat over the middle for Colin Kaepernick.
The 49ers tend to value players differently than the rest of the league, so this pick could also be someone like Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin, who had a late-first-round grade until he incurred an ACL tear at the Senior Bowl. But general manager Trent Baalke has used the "draft-and-stash" mentality before (Tank Carradine, Marcus Lattimore) and could grab a high-value player if one happens to fall.
31. Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos were good enough in 2013 to dominate the AFC, but we saw in the Super Bowl that work is needed if they hope to win a Super Bowl.
John Elway and the front office must look at the right side of the offensive line, middle linebacker and the depth they have at cornerback and wide receiver. If the goal is to build up a team around Peyton Manning for one more run, those are the imminent holes.
The Pick: ILB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
An edge-defender at Ohio State, Ryan Shazier has the tools to play inside linebacker in an aggressive 4-3 scheme like the one head coach John Fox employs. With his first-step quickness, instincts, blitzing experience and upside as a mover in space, Shazier could be a star here.
With DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, Terrance Knighton and others drawing the focus of the offense, a rookie Mike linebacker could be covered up and somewhat protected while he learns on the job. With Shazier's versatility and upside, this would make for one of the most athletic front sevens in football.
32. Seattle Seahawks
The reigning Super Bowl champions managed to fill most of their needs through re-signings and free agency, but general manager John Schneider's Seattle Seahawks do have areas of need in this draft.
The cornerback position was thinned out by Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond leaving town in free agency. At wide receiver, the team released and then signed Sidney Rice, but it currently has Doug Baldwin for just one more year. Tight end remains a position where an upgrade could be used, as do right guard and tackle.
The Pick: CB Jason Verrett, TCU
The role of slot cornerback in this defense is important, and that's why the Seahawks use a first-round pick on the draft's best interior cover man.
Jason Verrett doesn't fit the profile of what the Seahawks have done at the position in the past, but his play does. He's aggressive, tenacious and a ball hawk. That makes up for his 5'9" frame. If the 'Hawks can get past a bum shoulder that Verrett had fixed, they could find a star in the slot.
2 33 Houston Texans — Zach Mettenberger QB LSU
2 34 Washington Redskins — Bradley Roby CB Ohio State
2 35 Cleveland Browns — Pierre Desir CB Lindenwood
2 36 Oakland Raiders — Ra'Shede Hageman DT Minnesota
2 37 Atlanta Falcons — Cyrus Kouandjio OT Alabama
2 38 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Xavier Su'a-Filo OG UCLA
2 39 Jacksonville Jaguars — Donte Moncrief WR Ole Miss
2 40 Minnesota Vikings — Calvin Pryor SS Louisville
2 41 Buffalo Bills — Jace Amaro TE Texas Tech
2 42 Tennessee Titans — Phillip Gaines CB Rice
2 43 New York Giants — Timmy Jernigan DT FSU
2 44 St. Louis Rams — Jaylen Watkins CB Florida
2 45 Detroit Lions — Marqise Lee WR USC
2 46 Pittsburgh Steelers — Kelvin Benjamin WR FSU
2 47 Dallas Cowboys — Louis Nix DT Notre Dame
2 48 Baltimore Ravens — Martavis Bryant WR Clemson
2 49 New York Jets — Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE Washington
2 50 Miami Dolphins — Joel Bitonio OT Nevada
2 51 Chicago Bears — Terrence Brooks FS FSU
2 52 Arizona Cardinals — Kyle Van Noy OLB BYU
2 53 Green Bay Packers — Weston Richburg OC Colorado State
2 54 Philadelphia Eagles — Jarvis Landry WR LSU
2 55 Cincinnati Bengals — Marcus Martin OC USC
2 56 San Francisco 49ers — Deone Bucannon SS Washington State
2 57 San Diego Chargers — Antonio Richardson OT Tennessee
2 58 New Orleans Saints — Jeremiah Attaochu OLB Georgia Tech
2 59 Indianapolis Colts — Demarcus Lawrence OLB Boise State
2 60 Carolina Panthers — Jordan Matthews WR Vanderbilt
2 61 San Francisco 49ers — Stanley Jean-Baptiste CB Nebraska
2 62 New England Patriots — Troy Niklas TE Notre Dame
2 63 Denver Broncos — Ja'Wuan James OT Tennessee
2 64 Seattle Seahawks — Will Sutton DT Arizona State
3 65 Houston Texans — Carlos Hyde RB Ohio State
3 66 Washington Redskins — Chris Borland ILB Wisconsin
3 67 Oakland Raiders — Devin Street WR Pitt
3 68 Atlanta Falcons — Charles Sims RB West Virginia
3 69 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Jordan Tripp OLB Montana
3 70 Jacksonville Jaguars — Jeremy Hill RB LSU
3 71 Cleveland Browns — Tre Mason RB Auburn
3 72 Minnesota Vikings — Lamarcus Joyner CB FSU
3 73 Buffalo Bills — Scott Crichton DE Oregon State
3 74 New York Giants — Kevin Norwood WR Alabama
3 75 St. Louis Rams — Jimmy Garoppolo QB Eastern Illinois
3 76 Detroit Lions — Brock Vereen FS Minnesota
3 77 San Francisco 49ers — Christian Jones ILB FSU
3 78 Dallas Cowboys — Bruce Ellington WR South Carolina
3 79 Baltimore Ravens — Bishop Sankey RB Washington
3 80 New York Jets — Trent Murphy OLB Stanford
3 81 Miami Dolphins — Trai Turner OG LSU
3 82 Chicago Bears — Marcus Roberson CB Florida
3 83 Cleveland Browns — Gabe Jackson OG Miss. State
3 84 Arizona Cardinals — Marcus Smith OLB Louisville
3 85 Green Bay Packers — C.J. Fiedorowicz TE Iowa
3 86 Philadelphia Eagles — Ahmad Dixon SS Baylor
3 87 Kansas City Chiefs — Ed Reynolds FS Stanford
3 88 Cincinnati Bengals — AJ McCarron QB Alabama
3 89 San Diego Chargers — DaQuan Jones DT Penn State
3 90 Indianapolis Colts — Dezmen Southward SS Wisconsin
3 91 New Orleans Saints — Aaron Murray QB Georgia
3 92 Carolina Panthers — Bashaud Breeland CB Clemson
3 93 New England Patriots — Brandon Coleman WR Rutgers
3 94 San Francisco 49ers — Travis Swanson OC Arkansas
3 95 Denver Broncos — Keith McGill CB Utah
3 96 Minnesota Vikings — Kareem Martin DE North Carolina
3* 97 Pittsburgh Steelers — E.J. Gaines CB Missouri
3* 98 Green Bay Packers — Robert Herron WR Wyoming
3* 99 Baltimore Ravens — Stephon Tuitt DE Notre Dame
3* 100 San Francisco 49ers — Storm Johnson RB UCF
4 101 Houston Texans — Paul Richardson WR Colorado
4 102 Washington Redskins — Jack Mewhort OT Ohio State
4 103 Atlanta Falcons — Demetri Goodson CB Baylor
4 104 New York Jets — Laurent Duvernay-Tardif OT McGill (Canada)
4 105 Jacksonville Jaguars — Christian Kirksey OLB Iowa
4 106 Cleveland Browns — Billy Turner G/T North Dakota State
4 107 Oakland Raiders — Carl Bradford OLB Arizona State
4 108 Minnesota Vikings — Devonta Freeman RB FSU
4 109 Buffalo Bills — David Yankey OG Stanford
4 110 St. Louis Rams — Jerick McKinnon RB Georgia Southern
4 111 Detroit Lions — Jackson Jeffcoat DE/LB Texas
4 112 Tennessee Titans — Lache Seastrunk RB Baylor
4 113 New York Giants — Kevin Pierre-Louis OLB Boston College
4 114 Jacksonville Jaguars — George Uko DT USC
4 115 New York Jets — Rashaad Reynolds CB Oregon State
4 116 Miami Dolphins — Dexter McDougle CB Maryland
4 117 Chicago Bears — Terrance West RB Towson
4 118 Pittsburgh Steelers — Ego Ferguson DL LSU
4 119 Dallas Cowboys — Shaq Evans WR UCLA
4 120 Arizona Cardinals — Seantrel Henderson OT Miami (Fla.)
4 121 Green Bay Packers — Yawin Smallwood ILB UConn
4 122 Philadelphia Eagles — Dakota Dozier OG Furman
4 123 Cincinnati Bengals — Telvin Smith OLB FSU
4 124 Kansas City Chiefs — Josh Mauro DE Stanford
4 125 San Diego Chargers — Brandon Thomas OG Clemson
4 126 New Orleans Saints — Cameron Fleming OT Stanford
4 127 Cleveland Browns — Caraun Reid NT Princeton
4 128 Carolina Panthers — Dri Archer WR Kent State
4 129 San Francisco 49ers — Logan Thomas QB Virginia Tech
4 130 New England Patriots — Cyril Richardson OG Baylor
4 131 Denver Broncos — Chris Smith DE Arkansas
4 132 Seattle Seahawks — Chris Watt OG Notre Dame
4* 133 Detroit Lions — Corey Linsley OC Ohio State
4* 134 Baltimore Ravens — Craig Loston SS LSU
4* 135 Houston Texans — Anthony Johnson DT LSU
4* 136 Detroit Lions — Richard Rodgers TE California
4* 137 New York Jets — Wesley Johnson OG Vanderbilt
4* 138 Baltimore Ravens — Travis Carrie CB Ohio
4* 139 Atlanta Falcons — Josh Huff WR Oregon
4* 140 New England Patriots — Andre Williams RB Boston College
5 141 Houston Texans — Shamar Stephen DE UConn
5 142 Washington Redskins — Ed Stinson DE Alabama
5 143 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — DeAndre Coleman DT California
5 144 Jacksonville Jaguars — Russell Bodine OG North Carolina
5 145 Cleveland Browns — Shayne Skov ILB Stanford
5 146 Seattle Seahawks — Colt Lyerla TE Oregon
5 147 Atlanta Falcons — Adrian Hubbard OLB Alabama
5 148 Minnesota Vikings — Lamin Barrow MLB LSU
5 149 Buffalo Bills — Antone Exum FS Virginia Tech
5 150 Jacksonville Jaguars — Dontae Johnson FS North Carolina State
5 151 Tennessee Titans — Tom Savage QB Pitt
5 152 New York Giants — Terrance Mitchell FS Oregon
5 153 St. Louis Rams — Anthony Steen OG Alabama
5 154 New York Jets — Daniel McCullers DL Tennessee
5 155 Miami Dolphins — Ka'Deem Carey RB Arizona
5 156 Chicago Bears — Jared Abbrederis WR Wisconsin
5 157 Pittsburgh Steelers — James Gayle OLB Virginia Tech
5 158 Dallas Cowboys — Dion Bailey FS USC
5 159 Jacksonville Jaguars — Cassius Marsh DE UCLA
5 160 Arizona Cardinals — Aaron Colvin CB Oklahoma
5 161 Green Bay Packers — Justin Ellis NT La. Tech
5 162 Philadelphia Eagles — Loucheiz Purifoy CB Florida
5 163 Kansas City Chiefs — Andre Hal CB Vanderbilt
5 164 Cincinnati Bengals — Jay Bromley DT Syracuse
5 165 San Diego Chargers — TJ Jones WR Notre Dame
5 166 Indianapolis Colts — Kenny Ladler FS Vanderbilt
5 167 New Orleans Saints — Tyler Larsen OC Utah State
5 168 Carolina Panthers — James Hurst OT North Carolina
5 169 New Orleans Saints — Arthur Lynch TE Georgia
5 170 San Francisco 49ers — Trevor Reilly OLB Utah
5 171 Denver Broncos — Kelcy Quarles DT South Carolina
5 172 Seattle Seahawks — De'Anthony Thomas WR Oregon
5* 173 Pittsburgh Steelers — Jordan Zumwalt ILB UCLA
5* 174 New York Giants — Ross Cockrell CB Duke
5* 175 Baltimore Ravens — Tajh Boyd QB Clemson
5* 176 Green Bay Packers — Bene Benwikere CB San Jose State
6 177 Houston Texans — Preston Brown ILB Louisville
6 178 Washington Redskins — Ryan Groy OG Wisconsin
6 179 Jacksonville Jaguars — Mike Davis WR Texas
6 180 Cleveland Browns — Jonathan Dowling FS Western Kentucky
6 181 Houston Texans — Nevin Lawson CB Utah State
6 182 Atlanta Falcons — Marqueston Huff FS Wyoming
6 183 Chicago Bears — Ronald Powell OLB Florida
6 184 Minnesota Vikings — Khairi Fortt OLB California
6 185 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Deion Belue CB Alabama
6 186 Tennessee Titans — Jeoffrey Pagan DE Alabama
6 187 New York Giants — Charles Leno OT Boise State
6 188 St. Louis Rams — Shaquil Barrett OLB Colorado State
6 189 Detroit Lions — Will Clarke DE West Virginia
6 190 Miami Dolphins — Joe Don Duncan TE Dixie State
6 191 Chicago Bears — Nat Berhe SS San Diego State
6 192 Pittsburgh Steelers — Crockett Gillmore TE Colorado State
6 193 Kansas City Chiefs — Avery Williamson ILB Kentucky
6 194 Baltimore Ravens — Bryan Stork OC FSU
6 195 New York Jets — Michael Sam OLB Missouri
6 196 Arizona Cardinals — Spencer Long OG Nebraska
6 197 Green Bay Packers — David Fales QB San Jose State
6 198 New England Patriots — Keith Wenning QB Ball State
6 199 Cincinnati Bengals — Zach Moore DE Concordia
6 200 Kansas City Chiefs — Walt Aikens CB Liberty
6 201 San Diego Chargers — Brent Urban DE Virginia
6 202 New Orleans Saints — John Brown WR Pitt State
6 203 Indianapolis Colts — Zach Fulton OG Tennessee
6 204 Carolina Panthers — John Urschel OG Penn State
6 205 Jacksonville Jaguars — Jonotthan Harrison OC Florida
6 206 New England Patriots — Taylor Hart DE Oregon
6 207 Denver Broncos — Donald Hawkins OG Texas
6 208 Seattle Seahawks — Larry Webster DE/TE Bloomsburg
6* 209 New York Jets — Jeff Janis WR Saginaw Valley
6* 210 New York Jets — Lonnie Ballentine FS Memphis
6* 211 Houston Texans — Prince Shembo OLB Notre Dame
6* 212 Cincinnati Bengals — Marion Grice RB Arizona State
6* 213 New York Jets — Andrew Jackson ILB Western Kentucky
6* 214 St. Louis Rams — Garrett Gilbert QB SMU
6* 215 Pittsburgh Steelers — Brandon Linder OG Miami (Fla.)
7 216 Houston Texans — Cornelius Lucas OT Kansas State
7 217 Washington Redskins — Vinnie Sunseri SS Alabama
7 218 Cleveland Browns — Ryan Grant WR Tulane
7 219 Oakland Raiders — Connor Shaw QB South Carolina
7 220 Atlanta Falcons — Marcel Jensen TE Fresno State
7 221 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Brett Smith QB Wyoming
7 222 Jacksonville Jaguars — Howard Jones OLB Shepherd
7 223 Minnesota Vikings — Chris Davis CB/PR Auburn
7 224 Buffalo Bills — Ryan Carrethers DT Arkansas State
7 225 Carolina Panthers — Mo Alexander SS Utah State
7 226 St. Louis Rams — Kadeem Edwards OG Tennessee State
7 227 Detroit Lions — Michael Schofield T/G Michigan
7 228 Tennessee Titans — A.C. Leonard TE Tennessee State
7 229 Dallas Cowboys — Henry Josey RB Missouri
7 230 Pittsburgh Steelers — Cody Hoffman WR BYU
7 231 Dallas Cowboys — Brandon Dixon CB Northwest Missouri State
7 232 Indianapolis Colts — Kain Colter WR Northwestern
7 233 New York Jets — Kendall James CB Maine
7 234 Miami Dolphins — Tevin Reese WR Baylor
7 235 Oakland Raiders — James Morris ILB Iowa
7 236 Green Bay Packers — Tyler Starr OLB South Dakota
7 237 Philadelphia Eagles — Bruce Gaston DT Purdue
7 238 Dallas Cowboys — Bryn Renner QB North Carolina
7 239 Cincinnati Bengals — Chris Boswell K Rice
7 240 San Diego Chargers — Gabe Ikard OC Oklahoma
7 241 St. Louis Rams — Tenny Palepoi DT Utah
7 242 San Francisco 49ers — Xavier Grimble TE USC
7 243 San Francisco 49ers — Aaron Lynch DE USF
7 244 New England Patriots — Isaiah Lewis SS Michigan State
7 245 San Francisco 49ers — Anthony Fera K Texas
7 246 Denver Broncos — Isaiah Crowell RB Alabama State
7 247 Oakland Raiders — Jake Murphy TE Utah
7* 248 Dallas Cowboys — Matt Patchan OT Boston College
7* 249 St. Louis Rams — Justin Britt OT Missouri
7* 250 St. Louis Rams — Devekeyan Lattimore ILB USF
7* 251 Dallas Cowboys — Jon Halapio OG Florida
7* 252 Cincinnati Bengals — Tre Boston SS North Carolina
7* 253 Atlanta Falcons — Tyler Gaffney RB Stanford
7* 254 Dallas Cowboys — Chris Whaley DT Texas
7* 255 Atlanta Falcons — Matt Hazel WR Coastal Carolina
7* 256 Houston Texans — Anthony Denham TE Utah