The 2014 NFL Recruiting Mock Draft
The NFL draft begins on Thursday evening, and it will feature a pool of players from the college ranks. However, at some point, college football will eventually stop being the NFL's free minor league system.
Although college football recruits are not physically ready to play in the NFL, imagine a scenario in which they were. Imagine NFL teams having to scout and study the pool of players in the 2014 recruiting class and therefore drafting them based on their team needs and other factors.
In that scenario, here's how the first round of the 2014 draft would go.
1. Houston Texans
Pick: Kyle Allen, QB
Houston struggles with this pick, as Kyle Allen is the top quarterback on the board, which would fill their most pressing need. However, adding defensive end Myles Garrett to pair with J.J. Watt in the trenches would be a big-time move.
However, the chance to land a potential franchise quarterback in Allen in a quarterback-driven league pushes the Arizona native over the top for the Texans. Head coach Bill O'Brien will enjoy working with a smart and accurate passer such as Allen.
2. St. Louis Rams
Pick: Cameron Robinson, LT
St. Louis flirts with taking receiver Speedy Noil to give quarterback Sam Bradford another weapon. Plus, Noil and receiver Tavon Austin would form a dynamic duo.
However, Bradford got hurt in 2013 on a play where he was running for his life. Additionally, left tackle Jake Long is coming off a torn ACL, and the Rams need to add more talent to their offensive front.
Cameron Robinson, who is 6'7" and 335 pounds, has the feet, balance and athleticism to be an All-Pro offensive tackle. The Rams turn in their draft card with the Louisiana native's name on it.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Pick: Myles Garrett, DE
The Jacksonville Jaguars play in the AFC South, which means they will have to face Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck twice a year for probably the next decade. The best way to stop him is to get after him with a great pass-rusher.
Head coach Gus Bradley is a former defensive coordinator, which means he is jumping for joy when the Jags take Myles Garrett. At 6'4" and 240 pounds, he is a supreme athlete on the edges. He has the quickness, flexibility and strength to be a terror in Bradley's defense.
4. Cleveland Browns
Pick: Speedy Noil, WR
The Cleveland Browns want a quarterback, but they'd have to reach for one here at No. 4. They figure to be in a good position to land one at No. 26.
At this pick, they shy away from taking running back Leonard Fournette due to the haunting shadow of former running back Trent Richardson, whom the Browns selected in the first round in 2012.
General manager Ray Farmer jumps at the chance to add more speed to Cleveland's offense by selecting receiver Speedy Noil, who is 5'10.5" and 176 pounds. He will pair well with receiver Josh Gordon while also providing a boost to the Browns return game.
5. Oakland Raiders
Pick: Da'Shawn Hand, DE
Oakland wants to go the safe route with this pick, as Da'Shawn Hand is a player with a low floor. At 6'4" and 265 pounds, he has the strength and athleticism to play several different positions for the Raiders.
Oakland will have him play both defensive end spots while also rushing over guards as a defensive tackle on passing downs. Head coach Dennis Allen also figures the Virginia native could develop into an impressive full-time presence in the interior defensive trenches.
6. Atlanta Falcons
Pick: Lorenzo Carter, DE
A pass-rusher is needed badly in Atlanta, and the Falcons fall in love with the potential of Lorenzo Carter. The 6'5", 232-pounder will be ready to rush on sub-packages as a rookie, plus he'll get stronger over time versus the run.
He is more than happy to stay in his native state of Georgia, where he should develop into a stud for the Falcons. Atlanta figures to look hard at offensive tackles such as Kc McDermott and Brian Wallace later in the draft.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick: Rashaan Evans, OLB/DE
Head coach Lovie Smith is a defensive-minded leader who will be looking for versatile defenders who can fit in his Tampa 2 scheme. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers take Rashaan Evans, who has the athleticism to play defensive end and outside linebacker.
The 6'3", 220-pounder will spend a lot of time rushing the passer, but Smith will also take advantage of Evans' athletic ability by dropping him into coverage.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Pick: Jabrill Peppers, DB
Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman takes the best player on the board: Jabrill Peppers. Sure, he could be the best overall football player in this draft, but he slides a bit due to various factors.
At 6'1" and 205 pounds, the New Jersey native starts his career as a cornerback for the Vikings. However, his instincts, athletic ability and awareness could lead to him being moved to safety in a few years to better serve the defense.
9. Buffalo Bills
Pick: Malachi Dupre, WR
The Buffalo Bills would have loved to get Speedy Noil here, but they "settle" for Dupre. The Louisiana native is already close to 6'3" and 190 pounds, and he has sneaky speed to get up the perimeter.
His smooth athleticism will work well with young receiver Robert Woods, and quarterback E.J. Manuel will love throwing to him. Dupre will just have to get used to the winters in New York.
10. Detroit Lions
Pick: Tony Brown, CB
The Texas native heads to Detroit as a 6'0", 188-pound defensive back who has the strength to press receivers well in man coverage. He also has great speed and toughness, plus he has the anticipation and coverage awareness to play safety.
He fills a major need.
11. Tennessee Titans
Pick: Adoree' Jackson, CB
After losing Alterraun Verner to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency, the Tennessee Titans are looking for another cover corner.
They jump for joy when they get the chance to take Adoree' Jackson, who is among the draft's best overall athletes. He isn't big at 5'9.5" and 182 pounds, but he has elite speed, acceleration and short-area quickness.
He is also tough and deceptively strong, which allows him to play bigger than his size. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton is the happiest man in the Titans organization with this pick.
12. New York Giants
Pick: Leonard Fournette, RB
Running back is not as valued a position as it used to be, and it isn't a major need for the New York Giants. Yet general manager Jerry Reese takes the top talent on the board in Leonard Fournette.
At 6'1" and 226 pounds, he has the strength and power to carry the load versus NFC East defenses.
He also has good speed and quickness, plus his vision and instincts are top-notch. The Giants used to have a dominant rushing offense, and Fournette could be the man to get their rushing attack back on track.
13. St. Louis Rams
Pick: Quin Blanding, FS
The Rams drafted safety T.J. McDonald last year, and he appears to have a bright future in St. Louis. However, McDonald is at his best attacking the line of scrimmage.
That means getting a classic free safety to pair with him is important. Quin Blanding is the best safety in the draft, as the Virginia native displays excellent instincts, range and awareness in coverage.
The 6'2", 200-pounder has the speed and ball skills to be an elite free safety for head coach Jeff Fisher.
14. Chicago Bears
Pick: Andrew Brown, DT
The Chicago Bears want to add reinforcements to their defense, especially in the trenches. At this pick, they turn in their draft card with Andrew Brown's name on it.
He gives them an explosive and strong defensive tackle who is probably close to 300 pounds and stands 6'4". Brown will be equally effective versus the run and the pass for Chicago. NFC North offenses will have to account for him before every play.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pick: Marlon Humphrey, CB
This is a perfect fit for both parties, as the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive scheme suits the skill set of Marlon Humphrey.
Humphrey, who is 6'1" and 182 pounds, excels in zone and off-man coverage, which Pittsburgh's defense plays a lot of. Along with his terrific length, the Alabama native is an intelligent and instinctive cornerback who has good ball skills.
Look for him to become the next Ike Taylor at cornerback for the Steelers.
16. Dallas Cowboys
Pick: John Smith, FS
Although he can play receiver, the Dallas Cowboys draft John Smith to play free safety in Dallas. The 6'1", 200-pounder is an outstanding athlete with good strength and vision.
His speed and ability to shoot quickly out of transition will allow him to play with a ton of range. His presence in the secondary will let the cornerbacks play more aggressively at the line of scrimmage.
17. Baltimore Ravens
Pick: Damian Prince, OT
The Seattle Seahawks are forcing teams to take a different approach to the right tackle position. The days of having a powerful road-grader who is not as athletic as the left tackle may be over.
That is why Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome selects Maryland native Damian Prince with this pick. He has left tackle athleticism at 6'5" and 295 pounds, and he'll fit well at right tackle to protect quarterback Joe Flacco.
Plus, Prince can slide to left tackle if anything happens to Eugene Monroe.
18. New York Jets
Pick: Ermon Lane, WR
The New York Jets need to get more explosive on offense in the worst way, especially at receiver. They waste no time in turning in their draft card to select Ermon Lane.
At 6'3" and 193 pounds, he has just enough speed to sneak by cornerbacks and threaten safeties. He has outstanding ball skills, and his quickness out of his breaks helps him skate away from defenders at junctions.
If he fulfills his potential in New York, Lane could become a similar receiver to Arizona Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald.
19. Miami Dolphins
Pick: Damien Mama, OL
Offensive line is a huge need for the Miami Dolphins, even though they signed left tackle Branden Albert during free agency.
The 'Phins feel more help is needed to protect young quarterback Ryan Tannehill, which is what Damien Mama does. At 6'4" and 370 pounds, he has enough short-area quickness and athleticism to play right tackle. If things don't work out there, Miami figures Mama still has the strength and power to be a dominant guard.
20. Arizona Cardinals
Pick: Raekwon McMillan, LB
Linebacker Karlos Dansby bolted for Cleveland during free agency, which has left the depth chart at inside linebacker thin in the desert.
The Arizona Cardinals fill a pressing need by selecting Raekwon McMillan, who excels against the run. The Georgia native, who is 6'2" and 242 pounds, will be ready to play immediately on running downs. He is a solid athlete who will eventually develop into an adequate defender in coverage for the Cardinals.
21. Green Bay Packers
Pick: Jamal Adams, S
The Green Bay Packers get perhaps the biggest steal of the first round in safety Jamal Adams. The Texas native has rare athleticism and instincts for his position, and he's 6'0" and 199 pounds.
He can play free safety with range and speed and has no issues being an enforcer in the box. The Packers will also be able to line Adams over slot receivers in man coverage. General manager Ted Thompson makes an exceptional pick at this slot.
22. Philadelphia Eagles
Pick: Christian Miller, OLB/DE
A better pass rush is needed in Philadelphia, as the Eagles secondary is better than it is given credit for. Philly runs a 3-4 defense now, so it must continue to get the right personnel to fit its scheme.
Chip Kelly had Dion Jordan when he was Oregon, and Christian Miller has the ability to do similar things to the Miami Dolphins' pass-rusher. Miller, who is 6'4" and 222 pounds, has explosive potential as a rush end off the edge, and he also is capable of covering tight ends in the passing game.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
Pick: KD Cannon, WR
Getting more explosive on offense is an objective for Kansas City. The Chiefs would love to be able to stretch the field while taking some pressure off receiver Dwayne Bowe.
Losing receiver Dexter McCluster in free agency was a blow, but head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey take KD Cannon to mitigate it.
Cannon, who is 6'0" and 162 pounds, reminds Reid of DeSean Jackson of the Washington Redskins, who was coached by Reid when the two were with the Philadelphia Eagles.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Pick: Jalen Tabor, CB
Cornerback is a pressing need for the Cincinnati Bengals, who are smiling ear to ear when a cover man like Jalen Tabor falls to them at No. 24.
At 6'1" and 182 pounds, he is a long press corner who can jam receivers and bully them into the sideline. Head coach Marvin Lewis is one of the best defensive minds in the NFL, so Tabor surely will be developed into a starting cornerback early in his rookie season.
The chance to have Tabor and Dre Kirkpatrick as a long cornerback duo for years to come is exciting for the Bengals.
25. San Diego Chargers
Pick: Damon Webb, CB
The 5'11", 180-pounder needs some development, but he has huge upside. Webb has terrific quickness and speed, plus he possesses the ball skills of a receiver. Receiver Josh Malone also is a player who would fit well here, but Webb fills a bigger need for San Diego.
26. Cleveland Browns
Pick: Keller Chryst, QB
The draft plays out perfectly for Cleveland, which drafts its new starting quarterback by selecting Keller Chryst. The 6'4", 220-pounder has the arm strength to get to the ball to targets with velocity during cold weather, which is vital for the Browns.
He also is an intelligent passer with impressive vision, and he's an above-average athlete. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will mold Chryst into a good one.
27. New Orleans Saints
Pick: Chad Thomas, DE/OLB
With no cornerbacks left on the board with first-round grades, New Orleans turns its attention to its pass rush. That is what leads the Saints to Chad Thomas, who has a chance to be a dynamic player in defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's scheme.
Ryan will play Thomas in various roles, as the 6'5", 240-pounder can stand up on the edges. He has fantastic first-step quickness at the snap, plus he plays with solid strength.
This pick is a bit of a steal for the Saints.
28. Carolina Panthers
Pick: Josh Malone, WR
It's no secret the Carolina Panthers need a receiver. Steve Smith is now with the Baltimore Ravens, so quarterback Cam Newton needs a new favorite weapon in the passing game.
That is where Josh Malone comes in. At 6'2.25" and 191 pounds, the Tennessee native has excellent speed to threaten safeties. He must get better as a route-runner, but his raw skill set screams big-play potential.
29. New England Patriots
Pick: Malik McDowell, DE
Head coach Bill Belichick doesn't tip his hand much, but this pick becomes obvious when the New England Patriots are in the clock.
Malik McDowell gives Belichick an athletic defensive lineman who fits perfectly in New England's hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense. The 6'7", 290-pounder has the athleticism and quickness to make plays inside the defensive trenches in Foxborough.
As he gets stronger, he could remind New England fans of former defensive lineman Richard Seymour.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Pick: Clifton Garrett, LB
Outside linebacker Aldon Smith's future is uncertain, and inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman is coming off a torn ACL.
Clifton Garrett can play inside or outside in any defensive scheme, and that is why San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke selects him. The 6'2", 228-pounder can rush the passer off the edge like Smith, but he also has the strength and toughness to fit nicely as a run-stopping inside linebacker.
31. Denver Broncos
Pick: Roderick Taylor, OG
The Denver Broncos only have a few more seasons to win a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning as their quarterback. They're primed for another title run, but general manager John Elway must learn from what happened against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Denver was dominated in the offensive trenches, which threw off the timing of its entire offense. Although stud left tackle Ryan Clady will be back from his Lisfranc injury, more offensive line help is needed to protect Manning.
Roderick Taylor is a 6'3.5", 305-pound guard who has the strength and power to play right away.
32. Seattle Seahawks
Pick: Gerald Willis, DT
Reaching for an offensive lineman is a possibility here.
Yet, Gerald Willis is the pick when the Seattle Seahawks turn in their draft card to complete the first round. The champs lost defensive tackle Clinton McDonald in free agency, and Brandon Mebane could be playing his final season in Seattle this year.
Willis can help replace McDonald's production. At 6'3" and 275 pounds, he is a solid athlete who will fit better inside as he develops as a player. Head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider will get a couple of offensive linemen later in the draft.
Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns.