NFL Mock Draft 2014: Projecting How Thursday's First Round Will Unfold

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NFL Mock Draft 2014: Projecting How Thursday's First Round Will Unfold
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Months of speculation and perception will soon give way to reality as the the NFL's marquee offseason event gets set to kick off.

With the 2014 NFL draft just one day away, here I'll project how Round 1 will play out. 

 

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

For now, this pick belongs to the Houston Texans, and with no obvious franchise quarterbacks in this year's draft class, the Texans would be wise to take the best player on the board. 

Although there are question marks surrounding Clowney's work ethic, he answered them at his pro day, per SI.com's Chris Burke:

I think my work ethic’s pretty good. You’re getting a hard worker and a guy who’s great in the locker room and who wants to win. Football’s about winning. I hope everybody around me wants to win, too. That’s what I bring.

It also doesn't hurt that Clowney is a freakish athlete with limitless potential in the NFL.

 

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

There's been very little said about Auburn tackle Greg Robinson, but the 6'5", 330-pound lineman is a stud who could not only provide protection for St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford but help jump-start the team's lackluster rushing attack.

 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12): Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

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Like the Texans, the Jacksonville Jaguars are in the market for a quarterback. But at this stage of Round 1, Clemson's Sammy Watkins is arguably the best player available, and his big-play ability will be too good to pass up for the Jaguars.

Not to mention, Jacksonville faces an uncertain future at wide receiver given the recent off-the-field struggles of 2012 first-round pick Justin Blackmon, as noted by The Florida Times Union's Ryan O'Halloran

 

4. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

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Another franchise with a pressing need at quarterback, the Cleveland Browns may be the one team excited about the prospects of adding Johnny Manziel to the mix, per ESPN's Chris Mortensen, via Adam Schefter

While other reports have hinted at the Browns passing on Manziel, everything should be taken with a grain of salt this time of year. 

 

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

The debate rages on as to whether Clowney or Khalil Mack is the best pass-rusher in this year's draft. Nonetheless, both should come off the board in the top five.

 

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

If the Atlanta Falcons don't trade up to acquire a terrorizing pass-rusher, they might stay put and bolster their offensive line by selecting a topflight tackle. Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Michigan's Taylor Lewan are strong possibilities at this spot, but Matthews gets the edge because of his toughness. 

 

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

Keep an eye on the No. 7 spot and Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans on Thursday. There's a chance that a team could trade up to this spot in order to have a chance at the 6'5", 230-pound pass-catcher. 

But assuming the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stay put, he's likely to be their pick.

 

8. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1): Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

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The Minnesota Vikings face a mountain of uncertainty under center and would likely jump at the chance to select a clutch signal-caller like Central Florida's Blake Bortles. He also boasts the prototypical size and strength that many feel Manziel lacks.

 

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

The Buffalo Bills could really use a wide receiver, but with tremendous depth at that position in this year's draft, the Bills can afford to strengthen their offensive line. 

 

10. Detroit Lions (7-9): Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Several experts predict the Detroit Lions will take a wide receiver at this spot, but with Detroit's secondary struggling last season, the Lions are better off adding a playmaker like Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert.

Gilbert possesses sensational ball skills and can make plays on special teams as well.

 

11. Tennessee Titans (7-9): Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Cornerback is a key need for the Tennessee Titans this spring; therefore, Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard is an ideal fit for them at No. 11. 

Although Dennard's durability is a bit of a concern, his instincts and recognition skills are second to none when compared to the other top defensive backs in this year's class.

 

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

Aaron Donald to the New York Giants at No. 12 makes a lot of sense given the Giants' losses up front on the defensive line over the years. Linval Joseph's departure in free agency was a big blow, and the ultra-quick Donald would help fill that void in 2014.

 

13. St. Louis Rams (7-9): Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

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The best safety in this year's draft is Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who would be an excellent fit alongside 2013 third-round pick T.J. McDonald in St. Louis. The Rams could also look to draft a wide receiver at this spot. 

 

14. Chicago Bears (8-8): Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

The Chicago Bears' defense was horrendous in 2013, giving up yards and points at an eye-popping rate. And in a division that features Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, the Bears can ill afford to pass on a cornerback with their first-round selection. 

 

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

If the Pittsburgh Steelers hope to get back to the postseason, they'll need to do a better job of surrounding Ben Roethlisberger with weapons. LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. is a big-play threat who boasts the route-running skills NFL teams will be looking for.

 

16. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

Defensive line is a big need for the Dallas Cowboys this spring, but Notre Dame's Zack Martin would provide tremendous value at No. 16 overall. Martin is a versatile tackle who could potentially transition to guard someday.

 

17. Baltimore Ravens (8-8): Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

With Martin off the board, the Baltimore Ravens could add a much-needed weapon for quarterback Joe Flacco by selecting North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron.

Ebron is a top-10 talent who can stretch defenses with his unique blend of size, speed and athleticism. 

 

18. New York Jets (8-8): Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

The New York Jets will be looking to bolster their wide receiver corps through this year's draft, and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks could provide an excellent starting point in Round 1.

 

19. Miami Dolphins (8-8): Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA

The Miami Dolphins have several holes to fill on the offensive line, and UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo possesses the versatility to help out in a variety of ways. Plus, with Robinson, Matthews, Lewan and Martin already off the board, Miami would likely be reaching on a tackle at No. 19.

 

20. Arizona Cardinals (10-6): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

Carson Palmer's age and interception struggles hardly suggest he's the long-term option under center in Arizona. Therefore, it wouldn't be at all surprising if the Cardinals drafted a quarterback like Fresno State's Derek Carr.

Carr wouldn't have to step in right away and could learn the ropes behind Palmer for a season or two.

 

21. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1): C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

At No. 21 overall, Alabama defensive playmaker C.J. Mosley would be a solid value pick for the Green Bay Packers, who will be looking to improve their front seven. Mosley has very few weaknesses and excels against the run, which is key when you play the Minnesota Vikings twice a year.

 

22. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6): Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

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Safety is a big need for the Eagles this spring, and Louisville's hard-hitting Calvin Pryor could fill that hole for Philadelphia in Round 1. The Eagles could also target a linebacker at this stage.

 

23. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5): Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Kansas City's offense lacks the explosive playmakers to contend with the Denver Broncos in the AFC West, and by adding a smooth route-runner in Marqise Lee, they'd be addressing a key need in Round 1.

 

24. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5): Dee Ford, DE, Auburn

After losing Michael Johnson in free agency, a need has opened up on Cincinnati's defensive line. While Auburn's Dee Ford is undersized, his energy and strength off the edge would be a quality pickup for the Bengals, who could also target a defensive back with this pick.

 

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

San Diego has a handful of needs on defense, but cornerback is a big one, especially considering the Chargers play the Broncos twice a year, not including the playoffs. 

TCU's Jason Verrett plays bigger than his 5'9", 190-pound frame and can change directions in a hurry, a key attribute for a defensive back hoping to succeed at the next level. 

 

26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis (11-5): Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana

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With a quarterback in hand, the Browns could potentially add another offensive weapon late in Round 1. Josh Gordon is a stud, but whoever is starting under center in 2014 will need more than just one threat in order to challenge opposing defenses. 

Indiana's Cody Latimer boasts ideal size at 6'2", 215 pounds, and he has the ball skills and competitiveness to thrive in the NFL.

 

27. New Orleans Saints (11-5): Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

From a physical standpoint, Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt is one of the top players in this year's class. And if his struggles with consistency cause him to fall this far down the board, the New Orleans Saints will be in play, as they are in the market for a dynamic pass-rusher. 

 

28. Carolina Panthers (12-4): Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

Adding a 6'6" protector in Virginia's Morgan Moses would be big for the Carolina Panthers, who will want to keep Cam Newton upright and the running game on schedule.

 

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

With Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly both heading into their mid-30s, the New England Patriots could possibly look to add a young, destructive force on defense.

Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman is an impressive athlete for his size (6'6", 310 pounds) and possesses the quickness and power to wreak havoc at the point of attack.

 

30. San Francisco 49ers (12-4): Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt 

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Acquiring another weapon for Colin Kaepernick should be high on San Francisco's priority list this spring, and that's why Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews would make a lot of sense for the 49ers toward the end of Round 1.

Matthews is a big, strong receiver who can make tough catches and be relied on to move the chains, similarly to Niners veteran Anquan Boldin.

 

31. Denver Broncos (13-3): Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

We know about Denver's potent offense, led by reigning league MVP Peyton Manning, but the Broncos could use some depth defensively. And if Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier is still available late in Round 1, he'd offer superb value for the defending AFC champions. 

Shazier thrives as a sideline-to-sideline defender who reads the offense quickly and can diagnose plays in a hurry.

 

32. Seattle Seahawks (13-3): Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

The Seattle Seahawks' fearsome pass rush was key to their Super Bowl run a year ago, and with veteran Red Bryant being released last February, the defending champions should look to bolster their defensive line with a player who can step in and make an impact right away.

Missouri's Kony Ealy is extremely versatile and could fill a number of different roles in Seattle's front seven in 2014.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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