2014 NFL Mock Draft: Last-Minute Forecast for First Round

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2014 NFL Mock Draft: Last-Minute Forecast for First Round
Mary Ann Chastain/Associated Press

The NFL draft is an ever-changing entity.

Even now, just a day before the first round of the anticipated event, news and rumors are running rampant, and if we're to believe everything, teams are still changing their minds more than Effie Trinket changes hair color. 

That being said, let's attempt one final projection before things play out for real Thursday. 

 

1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Oftentimes, the No. 1 pick is already all but guaranteed at this point in the game, but there is still plenty of disagreement about what direction the Houston Texans are headed. 

Quarterback is still a possibility, as new head coach Bill O'Brien needs a signal caller for the future, and a trade certainly isn't out of the question. Ultimately, though, Rick Smith will find it too difficult to pass on the best overall player.

Jadeveon Clowney is a game-changing pass rusher. While he may not be an ideal fit in the 3-4 defense, putting him on the same line as J.J. Watt instantly makes the Texans' front seven extremely scary. 

 

2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

The only potential holdup with this pick is that Greg Robinson is still a bit raw, and the St. Louis Rams, who went 7-9 in a stacked NFC West last year, may be looking for more of an immediate impact as they hope to contend in 2014.

That puts Sammy Watkins in play, and NFL.com's Adam Caplan (as well as many others around the internet) is hearing that Johnny Manziel could also be in the mix:

However, the Rams have shown ultimate trust in Sam Bradford, and it would be surprising if they were ready to cut ties. Instead, they get a potential franchise left tackle in Robinson whom they can build around for the next decade. 

 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Khalil Mack's immense athleticism and pass-rushing prowess are on par with Jadeveon Clowney, and there's a solid chance he may not even fall this far. 

While the Jaguars have plenty of holes to fill, Gus Bradley—former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator—knows you win games on the defensive side the ball, making a difference-maker like Mack difficult to pass on. 

 

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

You aren't going to find a prospect more polarizing than Johnny Manziel. From his perceived off-the-field problems to his less-than-ideal stature and lack of ability to operate inside the pocket, he has plenty of critics. 

But Johnny Football's tools are rare: His athleticism makes him unbelievably elusive behind the line of scrimmage, and he has the arm to make every throw at the next level. 

The Browns have spent the offseason adding offensive weapons around Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, and now it's time to add a talented QB to bring it all together. 

Note: After this mock was written, FOX Sports' Jay Glazer reported the Browns wouldn't be selecting Manziel. Here's an alternate potential forecast if that truly is the case: Browns take Sammy Watkins at No. 4, Raiders snag Mike Evans at No. 5 and Bucs grab Manziel at No. 7.

 

5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Although Oakland added Matt Schaub in the winter, quarterback has always been an option for the Raiders. However, the San Francisco Chronicle's Vic Tafur recently put an end to those rumors. 

"Sources say the Raiders aren't really considering drafting Manziel or Bortles at No. 5," Tafur said in a recent column. 

No worry. The Raiders need elite offensive playmakers, and Watkins, who features an unreal combination of speed and running back power, shouldn't fall any further than this. 

 

6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M 

It's no secret: The Falcons, who ranked near the bottom of the NFL in sacks last year, want either Clowney or Mack. If neither falls this far, and Thomas Dimitroff doesn't trade up, offensive line has to be the next focus. 

With 46 collegiate starts at both left and right tackle, the ultra-versatile and ultra-solid Jake Matthews serves as one of the safest selections in the draft. 

 

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

Whether it's Mike Glennon or someone else under center in 2014, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to add an elite wide receiver opposite Vincent Jackson after jettisoning Mike Williams. 

Mike Evans' amalgam of size and strength makes him, essentially, a clone of Jackson, and with two huge jump-ball targets on the outside, the Bucs' passing game would be tough to stopno matter who is throwing the ball. 

 

8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

It was hard not to put Aaron Donald here. The former Pittsburgh star presents a lot of similarities to two-time All-Pro Geno Atkins, whom new head coach Mike Zimmer had the pleasure of working with in Cincinnati. Even though the Vikings selected Sharrif Floyd in the first round last year, Donald has the type of explosiveness to cause havoc on the interior. 

Nevertheless, the Vikes are a quarterback away from featuring a dominant offense, and Blake Bortles, who has long been considered as a potential No. 1 pick thanks to his impressive size, arm and athleticism, is solid value here. 

 

9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

The Buffalo Bills have a tantalizing future under center with E.J. Manuel, but they need to protect him. 

Taylor Lewan is 6'7" with athleticism and a nasty streak, and pairing him with Cordy Glenn would give the Bills two bookend tackles. Former offensive lineman and offensive line coach Doug Marrone isn't going to let this ideal fit slip away. 

 

10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Brandon Marshall. Alshon Jeffery. Randall Cobb. Cordarrelle Patterson. There isn't a shortage of talented wide receivers in the NFC North, and if the Detroit Lions are going to keep up, they will have to improve the secondary. 

In terms of athleticism and speed, there aren't many cornerbacks on Justin Gilbert's level, but in addition to the gaudy natural tools, he also has the prototypical frame (6'0", 202 pounds, good length) to start in the NFL for a long time. 

 

11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

Last season, the Tennessee Titans finished 21st in the NFL with 36 sacks and 10.5 of those came from defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. 

Anthony Barr is a bit raw, but his blend of size and speed make him the dominant pass-rusher the Titans need on the outside. Coming out of UCLA, he's also a great fit in the 3-4 for Ray Horton's defense. 

 

12. New York Giants: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame

Eli Manning nearly died in the pocket last year, and the entire offense suffered as a result. Fixing that problem begins in the trenches, and Zack Martin is the best offensive linemen available at this point. 

NFL.com's Mike Mayock and CBS Sports' Dane Brugler were in agreement about Martin's skyrocketing value: 

A versatile lineman with both quickness and power, Martin represents an immediate upgrade to this unit, whether he steps in immediately as a guard or tackle. 

 

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

T.J. McDonald has loads of potential, but he's more of a player who will make plays in the box or at the line of scrimmage. With Rodney McLeod better served as a slot corner, the Rams need someone to pair with McDonald who can cover a lot of ground. 

That's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, a ball-hawk who has the explosiveness and center field ability to make plays all over the gridiron. 

 

14. Chicago Bears: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

Again, there's a good chance Donald doesn't drop this far, but there has also never been an NFL draft that hasn't come without its fair share of surprises. 

The Chicago Bears will be popping the champagne if they are able to grab Donald, who could fill a hole in the interior of the defense that has seemingly been growing since the injury to (and now departure of) Henry Melton. 

Marc Trestman's team got very little QB pressure (tied for last in sacks) and was gashed on the ground (last in yards per attempt allowed) last year. Donald helps both of those areas. 

 

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

If Darqueze Dennard is still available here, the Pittsburgh Steelers likely won't hesitate to snatch him up. 

The former Michigan State star is a strong, physical defender who would instantly improve Pittsburgh's shaky cornerback unit, and he would eventually match up well with big receivers in the division such as A.J. Green and Josh Gordon. 

 

16. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

The Dallas Cowboys finished 26th in the NFL in yards per pass allowed last year and need all the help they can get on that side of the ball. 

Addition of guys like Jeremy Mincey and Henry Melton on the defensive line will help, and while adding another defensive tackle is still an option here, look for the 'Boys to address the secondary. 

Calvin Pryor is a fantastic cover safety who also brings a hard-hitting, aggressive, explosive presence that would assist in the run game. 

 

17. Baltimore Ravens: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

Whether the Baltimore Ravens pair Eric Ebron with Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels to create easily the best tight end corps in the league or trade out of the pick, I just can't let the North Carolina star fall any further than this. 

A top-10 talent, Ebron has the athleticism, size and length to do damage as a wide receiver either in-line or out of the slot, but he also possesses the strength and physicality to potentially become a very good blocker. 

Again, while tight end isn't the biggest need for the Ravens, Ozzie Newsome goes with the best player available and gives Joe Flacco a much-needed offensive weapon and matchup nightmare. 

 

18. New York Jets: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

Speaking of teams who are in need of offensive weapons... 

Whether it's Michael Vick or Geno Smith under center, the New York Jets need more talent catching the ball. Stephen Hill hasn't lived up to his second-round status, Tavon Austin was the one who got away last year and free-agent acquisition Eric Decker will need some help around him. 

Odell Beckham Jr. is a dynamic receiver and returner who is dangerous once he gets the ball in his hands. He's exactly the kind of player the Jets need. 

 

19. Miami Dolphins: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

With Dannell Ellerbe, Koa Misi and Philip Wheeler projected as starters at linebacker, the Miami Dolphins could really stand to upgrade the unit, especially if they don't see an offensive lineman they like here. 

Mosley is a smart, fast player who can cover from sideline to sideline and tends to act as an absolute magnet to the ball. He can also line up at all three linebacker positions in Kevin Coyle's 4-3 defense. 

 

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

Carson Palmer was very solid last season, but it's unclear how much longer the 10-year veteran will stay productive. 

Adding Derek Carr gives the Arizona Cardinals another strong-armed quarterback who would serve as the perfect eventual replacement. 

 

21. Green Bay Packers: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

The Green Bay Packers added Julius Peppers in the offseason, but he figures to see more time at defensive end rather than outside linebacker. 

Either way, Peppers is no guarantee to return to his pre-2013 form, and you can never have too many players with Ryan Shazier's type of athleticism, lightning speed and three-down ability. 

Lining him up across from Clay Matthews (assuming a clean bill of health) makes for a potentially explosive combo. 

 

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

The majority opinion seems to be that the Philadelphia Eagles will look for DeSean Jackson's replacement. Whether that turns out to be Brandin Cooks, Cody Latimer, Marqise Lee or someone else is a little less obvious. 

Ultimately, Chip Kelly loves speed on the offensive side of the ball, and the electrifying Cooks—whom Kelly saw plenty of in the Pac-12—provides exactly that. Fast, shifty and elusive, Cooks will fit right in with this high-octane offense.  

 

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

The Kansas City Chiefs are close. They have a talented defense, an electrifying running back and a capable quarterback in Alex Smith. Adding another playmaker to line up across from Dwayne Bowe would be a logical next move. 

Marqise Lee's junior season at USC was a bit underwhelming after silly freshman and sophomore campaigns, but this is still a breathtaking, explosive, athletic specimen who has the natural talent to give cornerbacks nightmares down the field. 

If Lee gets back to his 2011 or '12 form, this could be a steal. 

 

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

As one of the deepest teams in the league, the Cincinnati Bengals are a bit of a wild card. 

Cornerback isn't a major position of need, but Terence Newman and Adam Jones are in their 30's, Leon Hall hasn't played a full season since 2010, and Dre Kirkpatrick is still learning the game. 

Adding depth at the position wouldn't be a bad move, and Jason Verrett is the type of versatile cover guy who could move around the field as needed. 

 

25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

The San Diego Chargers' cornerback group is a bit of a mess. Steve Williams, although yet to play a game after missing last season with a torn pectoral muscle, has potential, but Richard Marshall is almost 30, and Shareece Wright was inconsistent last year. 

Some regard Kyle Fuller—a physical, all-around playeras the top corner in the draft, so he not only fills a position of need for Mike McCoy's team, but he represents good value at No. 25. 

 

26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts): Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

The run on cornerbacks continues, as the Browns select Bradley Roby to line up across from Joe Haden, allowing them to move Buster Skrine to their slot where he would likely be more effective. 

Roby's recent traffic incident has raised some red flags, but not many players are capable of matching the former Buckeye's blend of blazing speed, athleticism and physical play.

Note: If they don't take Manziel at No. 4, expect a QB here. 

 

27. New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn

The New Orleans Saints will be in the market for a cornerback or wide receiver, but if so many fly off the board like this, they may opt to look for a trade partner and wait until the second round. 

Should a trade not come to fruition, Dee Ford isn't a bad backup option. 

The Saints boasted an impressive pass rush last year, but as the Seattle Seahawks proved, you can never have too many talented players on the outside to rotate in and out. Ford was terrific in the national championship, impressive once again at the Senior Bowl and is a versatile hybrid edge rusher Rob Ryan will be able to use in creative ways. 

 

28. Carolina Panthers: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

The Carolina Panthers are another team that could use an upgrade in the "offensive playmakers" section, but replacing Jordan Gross at left tackle—or really, just finding a tackle for either side, periodmay prove to be more important. 

Morgan Moses has room to improve in the run game, but he is a gifted athlete who has played both left and right tackle and has the potential to protect Cam Newton for a long time. 

 

29. New England Patriots: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

Defensive tackle (or a trade) seems to be the consensus for the New England Patriots, who restructured Vince Wilfork's contract but still have a lot of questions at the position.

Bill Belichick will get his pick of the lot, as Donald is the only one off the board at this point, and don't be surprised if Louis Nix III, who can clog up the interior much like Wilfork, is at the top of the team's draft board. 

 

30. San Francisco 49ers: Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska

Trading up to get a better cornerback is a real option for the San Francisco 49ers, who are hoarding basically all of the picks. 

But for now, we'll slot them with the best cornerback available, which is Stanley Jean-Baptiste, a big corner who would fit in well with the 'Niners' physical defense. 

 

31. Denver Broncos: Ra'shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

According to one general manager, via Sports Illustrated's Peter King, "John Fox loves Hageman."

The former Minnesota standout needs to be more consistent, but rotating him with Sylvester Williams next to Terrance Knighton would only further establish the Broncos' defensive line as one of the most dominant in the NFL. 

 

32. Seattle Seahawks: Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA

There were times last season when the Seattle Seahawks' offensive line was really overmatched, especially on the interior. 

Fortunately for the Super Bowl champs, the best guard (unless you want to count Zack Martin) falls to them at the end of the first round, giving them an immediate—and necessary—upgrade in the trenches. 

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