The 2014 NFL draft is finally here.
Months—rather, years—of speculation over the top prospects in the class will finally screech to a halt on Thursday night, when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell officially opens the first round of the draft in New York City. It couldn't come quickly enough for some players, who saw their stock soar and plummet every which way over the draft season.
Will the first picks be flooded with quarterbacks, or will skill position players rule? That question and infinitely more will be answered through the seven-round fiasco over the weekend.
Without further ado, let's dive into a first-round mock just hours before the draft opens.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
They need a quarterback, but the Houston Texans won't be able to pass up on the potential of Jadeveon Clowney.
The former South Carolina standout is the most pure physical specimen the draft has seen in years. His combination of size, strength, freakish speed and versatility make him a near lock to terrorize NFL quarterbacks for years if he puts it all together.
Clowney is entering Thursday confident of his status as top pick, per Houston Chronicle's Brian T. Smith:
With Andrew Luck and the Colts figuring to run the AFC South for the coming years, the Texans would be wise to pair Clowney alongside J.J. Watt. If new Houston head coach Bill O'Brien passes on getting Clowney for a top-tier quarterback, he will forever regret it.
2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington): Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
There are endless possibilities for St. Louis with the No. 2 pick, but it will end up going conservative. Greg Robinson came on late in the season and emerged from a second-tier lineman to a potential top pick, and his peak athleticism will allow Jeff Fisher and the Rams more flexibility than any other lineman in the class can boast.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Jaguars have been waiting years for both a franchise quarterback and an attention-grabber. They'll get both with their No. 3 pick.
Johnny Manziel is one of the most polarizing players in recent NFL draft history, but his potential is undeniable. The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner can make plays few can, all while possessing a pro arm and a growing pocket presence. He's young and needs development, but Jacksonville still has some rebuilding to do and won't mind his growing pains.
A report from Sports Illustrated's Don Banks states Manziel wouldn't prefer to play in Jacksonville, but after being drafted in the top three of the draft, Johnny Football shouldn't have many complaints.
4. Cleveland Browns: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Manziel to Cleveland is being talked about, as is Teddy Bridgewater to the Browns. But one possibility few have thought of in Cleveland is Blake Bortles.
The UCF quarterback, at 6'4" and 230 pounds, has prototypical size for a NFL quarterback, unlike Manziel or Bridgewater. Despite that, he has the wheels to scramble at times and the ability to elongate plays all while being a great pocket passer.
As USA Today's Brent Sobleski noted, the Browns like Bortles, and it would shock some people:
Bortles and the Browns—it has a nice ring to it.
5. Oakland Raiders: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
This is as best-case scenario as best-case scenarios get for Oakland. Khalil Mack could end up off the board at No. 1 or at any point after that, but he won't fall past the Raiders, who could use some defensive identity.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
In need of some serious help up front, the Falcons won't be able to pass up a chance to get Jake Matthews—one of the top prospects in last year's class before returning to Texas A&M for his senior year. Atlanta could use Mack or Clowney, but it won't be disappointed with this haul.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
If the Raiders are the luckiest team in this mock, the Bucs are second. Tampa Bay has Vincent Jackson at wideout, but not much else—making Sammy Watkins a surefire impact rookie and a player who could generate some serious noise as Offensive Rookie of the Year.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Those anticipating a long night for Teddy Bridgewater on Thursday are right—it just won't be as long as many expected. After seeing all sorts of criticism hurled his way since the 2013 season ended, Bridgewater is still a future starting quarterback and worthy of a top-10 pick. The Vikings can keep him protected with a solid offensive line and get the run game going to keep off the pressure.
9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Bills struggled mightily on the offensive front last season, making this an easy pick for addressing the offensive line. Taylor Lewan is the next best option at this point, but he's not a shabby one—he should be able to start right away and allow Buffalo more flexibility in assembling the line.
10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Few teams are in need of secondary help more than Detroit, and the team will move in that direction with a future stud at cornerback. Justin Gilbert is the complete package at corner, with the size and speed to make opposing wideouts pay.
11. Tennessee Titans: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Titans have young studs on offense, but few in the secondary. To remedy that, Tennessee could grab a player like Darqueze Dennard—a physical, ball-hawking corner—from Michigan State, who could play immediately and rival other unproven Titans for a starting spot.
12. New York Giants: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
With the Giants losing so many notable pass-rushers in recent years, it will be tough for New York to draft anything other than a defensive end. With Kony Ealy figuring to be an impact player off the bat, the Giants could pair him alongside Jason Pierre-Paul and have a promising young duo of pass-rushers.
13. St. Louis Rams: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
With the Rams going offensive line with the No. 2 pick, there's little doubt they will address their gaping need at wideout with the No. 13 selection. St. Louis will be fortunate to have Mike Evans—a potential top-10 pick—fall into its lap.
14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Bears struggled mightily on defense in 2013, and it all starts in the trenches. Chicago could land a serious trench-stuffer in Timmy Jernigan at No. 14, and doing so would start to solve all of those problems in the Windy City.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Once a top-five pick potentially, Anthony Barr has seen his stock tank a bit since the college football season ended. But his potential is undeniable, and getting into a tradition-rich defensive system in Pittsburgh that needs youngsters sounds like a perfect fit for the UCLA star.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Dallas sorely needs new talent at defensive tackle, and Aaron Donald would be a great get. The former Pittsburgh standout is undersized but incredibly explosive, allowing him to make his mark up front and get into the backfield.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Other than Torrey Smith, the Ravens have a depleted and hapless receiving corps that could use a player of Odell Beckham's caliber. The former LSU standout is the complete package at wideout and figures to make a seamless NFL transition.
18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Even with the offseason addition of Eric Decker, the Jets don't have much going on in the pass game. To help out Geno Smith—or Michael Vick—expect New York to look for a talented pass-catcher. In this case, a tight end, as Eric Ebron has proven more than worthy of the rare tight-end-as-a-first-round pick.
19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
The Dolphins need offensive linemen like a dog needs a bone, and expect them go fetch one here at No. 19. Cyrus Kouandjio brings leadership and top-caliber experience to a line that desperately needs both.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
The Cardinals will want to add to a secondary that already boasts plenty of young promise, and adding Ha Ha Clinton-Dix figures to be an easy choice. There are already two standout SEC secondary players there, and his ball-hawking play will fit right in with Arizona's defense.
21. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
This Louisville safety is known for his hard hits and physical play, which are two things that Green Bay's secondary currently lacks. If Calvin Pryor fits the bill, he should be able to get plenty of snaps right away and develop into a great deep-field protector.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Chip Kelly's offense is made for a player of Marqise Lee's caliber. The Eagles already have their workhorse back in LeSean McCoy and a few weapons, but Lee's presence will allow them to stretch the field and fully take advantage of Nick Foles' arm with their West Coast connection.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Chiefs need a number of things to take the next step, and young corners are one of them in order to add depth to the defense. Jason Verrett could be the best corner in this class, with his height (5'10") being the only thing holding him back from being elite—and even that might not stop him.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
Already boasting one of the NFL's better defenses, Cincinnati needs to add some young talent in order to take its defense to the next level. Dee Ford from Auburn could bring some energy in right off the bat, get into the backfield and make plays as a rookie for the Bengals.
25. San Diego Chargers: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
In spite of a terrible defense, San Diego still made the playoffs in 2013. But the Chargers' late first-round pick won't keep them from addressing that side of the ball, as they get Louis Nix III—the Notre Dame run-stuffer with the big body needed to plug up the trenches.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis): Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
With a new franchise quarterback, the next plan for Cleveland will be to add more receivers to a corps already boasting Josh Gordon. Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews has carried a huge load for the Commodores en route to SEC all-time records, and his dependable workload along with a pro skill set will make him an early impact player with the Browns.
27. New Orleans Saints: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Rob Ryan implemented his defense in New Orleans in 2013, and it led to huge results, but he needs more talent. Getting C.J. Mosley at No. 27 is an absolute steal, and the Saints won't be able to pass on getting a true quarterback of the defense.
28. Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
The Panthers' need for a wide receiver is without question, and Brandin Cooks can take advantage of the extra room to roam around. One of the fastest players in college football last season, the Oregon State speedster will have no problem separating from fast secondary players.
29. New England Patriots: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Vince Wilfork is still around, but not for much longer. In order to fill the future void, the Patriots can draft a potential-rich lineman like Ra'Shede Hageman and slowly wean him into a defense that traditionally has done well with young potential players.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The 49ers have one of the NFL's worst wide receiving corps and still are among the best teams in the league. In order to take the next step, San Francisco will look to a wideout early in this weekend's draft, and here they'll grab a talented Penn State star.
31. Denver Broncos: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
All the Broncos need to remind themselves of their shortcomings is a mention of 43-8—the score of last year's Super Bowl. Denver will address its struggling defense in Round 1 on Thursday by grabbing Ryan Shazier—a player who could end up being among the best linebackers in this class.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
The Seahawks don't need much, as told by their dominating Super Bowl championship season in 2013. But they could use some young talent on the offensive line, a place where they're thin, and Antonio "Tiny" Richardson from Tennessee has shown for two years on Rocky Top that he's a dominating, underrated tackle.
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