NFL Draft 2014 Prospects: Final Expert Mock Predictions for 1st-Round Talent

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIMay 8, 2014

Los prospectos del draft de la NFL de 2014 se alinean sobre la marquesina del Radio City Music Hall durante una sesión fotográfica el miércoles 7 de mayo de 2014 en Nueva York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Seth Wenig/Associated Press

The speculation surrounding the first round of the 2014 NFL draft will end Thursday, but amid all the mocks that have occurred throughout the offseason, certain experts' opinions are worth paying attention to.

NFL Network's Mike Mayock just released his first mock only a day before the action at Radio City Music Hall in New York begins. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report hasn't left fans hanging at all throughout, continuing his relentless work in evaluating prospects. He's just released a final first-round mock of his own.

Rotoworld.com guru Evan Silva got a bit trade-crazy with his projections for Round 1 in a most interesting mock on Thursday, and ESPN expert Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest (subscription required) is as good of a read as there is.

Here is a complete look at some of the marquee experts' picks—along with those of yours truly—for how the first round will unfold.

 

Expert 1st-Round 2014 NFL Mock Drafts
Pick Team Matt Miller (B/R) Mike Mayock (NFL.com)Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN)Evan Silva (Rotoworld)Matt Fitzgerald (B/R)
1 Houston Texans Jadeveon ClowneyJadeveon ClowneyJadeveon ClowneyJadeveon Clowney (traded to Atlanta)Jadeveon Clowney
2 St. Louis Rams (via WAS) Greg Robinson (traded to Atlanta)Greg RobinsonGreg RobinsonGreg RobinsonGreg Robinson
3 Jacksonville Jaguars Sammy WatkinsKhalil MackKhalil MackKhalil MackKhalil Mack
4 Cleveland Browns Mike EvansJake MatthewsSammy WatkinsMike EvansSammy Watkins (traded to Tampa Bay)
5 Oakland Raiders Khalil MackSammy WatkinsMike EvansSammy Watkins (traded to Detroit)Mike Evans
6 Atlanta Falcons Aaron Donald (traded to St. Louis)Taylor LewanJake MatthewsBlake Bortles (traded to Houston)Jake Matthews
7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Johnny ManzielMike EvansJohnny ManzielJohnny ManzielJohnny Manziel (traded to Cleveland)
8 Minnesota Vikings Eric Ebron (traded to Giants)Justin GilbertAaron DonaldAaron DonaldAnthony Barr
9 Buffalo Bills Jake MatthewsZack MartinTaylor LewanEric EbronTaylor Lewan
10 Detroit Lions Justin GilbertDarqueze DennardJustin GilbertJake Matthews (traded to Oakland)Justin Gilbert
11 Tennessee Titans Taylor LewanBlake BortlesAnthony BarrJustin GilbertDarqueze Dennard
12 New York Giants C.J. Mosley (traded to Minnesota)Eric EbronZack MartinTaylor LewanEric Ebron
13 St. Louis Rams Ha Ha Clinton-DixOdell Beckham Jr.Ha Ha Clinton-DixHa Ha Clinton-DixCalvin Pryor
14 Chicago Bears Odell Beckham Jr. (traded to Jets)Calvin PryorKyle FullerCalvin PryorAaron Donald
15 Pittsburgh Steelers Kyle FullerKyle FullerDarqueze DennardKyle FullerOdell Beckham Jr.
16 Dallas Cowboys Zack MartinJohnny ManzielRyan ShazierAnthony BarrHa Ha Clinton-Dix
17 Baltimore Ravens Morgan MosesC.J. MosleyEric EbronOdell Beckham Jr. (traded to San Francisco)Zack Martin
18 New York Jets Kony Ealy (traded to Chicago)Brandin CooksOdell Beckham Jr.Darqueze DennardBrandin Cooks
19 Miami Dolphins Cyrus KouandjioCyrus KouandjioJa'Wuan JamesZack MartinRyan Shazier (traded to Denver)
20 Arizona Cardinals Blake BortlesAnthony BarrBlake BortlesDee FordDerek Carr
21 Green Bay Packers Ra'Shede HagemanRyan ShazierC.J. MosleyRyan ShazierC.J. Mosley
22 Philadelphia Eagles Anthony BarrHa Ha Clinton-DixBrandin CooksBrandin CooksAllen Robinson
23 Kansas City Chiefs Teddy BridgewaterMarqise LeeMarqise LeeMarqise LeeCody Latimer
24 Cincinnati BengalsBrandin Cooks (traded to San Francisco)Aaron DonaldBradley RobyBradley RobyTeddy Bridgewater
25 San Diego Chargers Darqueze DennardBradley RobyStanley Jean-BaptisteLouis NixBradley Roby
26 Cleveland Browns (via IND) Derek CarrTeddy BridgewaterTeddy BridgewaterDerek CarrKyle Fuller
27 New Orleans Saints Marcus MartinKelvin BenjaminKyle Van NoyStanley Jean-BaptisteKelvin Benjamin
28 Carolina Panthers Ja'Wuan JamesDerek Carr (traded to Oakland)Joel BitonioJoel Bitonio Ja'Wuan James
29 New England Patriots Dominique EasleyJace AmaroCalvin PryorTeddy BridgewaterDee Ford
30 San Francisco 49ers Jason Verrett (traded to Cincinnati)Stephon TuittCody LattimerAustin Seferian-Jenkins (traded to Baltimore)Stanley Jean-Baptiste
31 Denver Broncos Ryan ShazierJason VerrettJason VerrettC.J. MosleyXavier Su'a-Filo (traded to Miami)
32 Seattle Seahawks Bradley RobyStanley Jean-BaptiseMorgan MosesRa'Shede HagemanMorgan Moses

 

Notable Draft Buzz and 1st-Round Analysis

Veteran Houston Chronicle beat writer John McClain seems sold that the Houston Texans won't trade their No. 1 overall pick and will use it to select South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney:

McClain also outlined the price that teams will have to pay to move into the top spot in the order:

Clowney is a freakish athlete at 6'6" and 266 pounds who ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Persistent questions about his work ethic and motor have plagued him in the pre-draft process, but it appears the Texans are set to take him.

Maybe not. Check out the following inside information from Jason Butt of the National Football Post.

"According to a league source, Houston is thinking hard about, and perhaps leaning toward, taking Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack with the No. 1 overall pick," writes Butt on Thursday.

Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack is bound to be the next defender off the board, unless he goes ahead of Clowney somehow. Mack is an excellent player, but doesn't boast quite the upside Clowney does. That's nothing to be ashamed of, since no one has those types of physical gifts.

Mack and Clowney, in whatever order, should be followed by Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, whose physical skills suggest he has the most upside of anyone at his position. Mayock has Gilbert going eighth to Minnesota, which is a bit of a surprise considering the Vikings picked Xavier Rhodes in Round 1 last year, but ESPN's Adam Caplan sees the fit:

Generating the most buzz based on the position he plays is Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. The dual-threat signal-caller could very well be the first quarterback off the board.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports summed Manziel up best in what he's heard from other teams:

The Cleveland Browns have been speculated as a destination for Manziel, but Fox Sports insider Jay Glazer extinguished that as a possibility before the draft based on what he knows:

Or did he? Glazer is among the most respected and accurate NFL reporters in the game today, so it's no surprise to see all the experts above pulling Manziel from Cleveland. Miller and Kiper (subscription required) both had Manziel to Cleveland at No. 4 in their previous mocks.

But what if the Browns trade back, allowing Tampa Bay to grab Sammy Watkins to pair opposite Vincent Jackson, and then the Oakland Raiders land receiving help of their own with Mike Evans? Cleveland general manager Ray Farmer would be heralded as a genius for getting an additional pick and still delivering Johnny Football to the impassioned fans.

Then again, Jacksonville could ruin all that if it selects Manziel at No. 3, which McClain says is a notion that's gaining traction:

Manziel addressed the off-field concerns surrounding him and the life in the spotlight he's willingly embraced since bursting onto the scene in College Station, per Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post:

I think I've done a great job of alleviating concerns of these guys, them getting to know me on a more personal level. And I've answered every question, anything they wanted to hear from me. So there's nothing for me to hide. I don't think it's wrong of me to enjoy my life and have fun. Throughout this whole process I've continued to work hard and do the things I need to do to try and become a better football player. That's the main thing. I'm not getting to this level to be complacent.

The Jaguars could use some excitement and stability under center most of all, but Peter King of MMQB.com reported earlier in the week that Jacksonville was considering just Watkins and Manziel's former left tackle in Jake Matthews.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that the Detroit Lions have genuine interest in trading up for Watkins all the way from the 10th overall slot in the draft hierarchy:

Seven wide receivers were invited to attend the draft in New York City, so it goes to show the talent Watkins has to be considered by many as the best. Mike Evans is the consensus No. 2, and Miller posted on Twitter two days before his last mock was published that the Browns would take him:

Matthews and Auburn tackle Greg Robinson figure to go toward the top of the draft, but Notre Dame's Zack Martin and feisty Michigan lineman Taylor Lewan are projected to be chosen in the top half of the first by some experts.

All of them could go before Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, whom the Browns have been rumored to be enamored with, prompting this intel from Rapoport:

There's buzz aplenty as the draft approaches, and unforeseeable trades and circumstances can ruin the picture even the most knowledgeable analysts have painted with their best inferences. The uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position is perhaps most fascinating, and Manziel is a microcosm of that. Johnny Football is perceived as a boom-or-bust proposition, yet any team who passes on him could dearly regret it if he does succeed.

Thanks to how deep this draft class is, the excitement surrounding the 2014 NFL draft won't diminish even during Day 3. Starters can be obtained at bargain rates, and fanbases should keep an eye out for how they're navigating those later rounds to add roster depth and even a surprise star or two. When looking back on this draft, it could be among the best across the board in NFL history.