2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated Predictions After 1st Week of Free Agency
With the free-agent frenzy winding down, it’s time to start looking at the effect the moves around the league had on the 2014 draft picture.
For the sake of not getting too carried away with arbitrary projections, I decided to bypass the possibility of trades in this mock hoping to reduce the possibility of confusion or get too carried away with endless speculation.
Obviously it’s a tough gig to try and get into the minds of 32 different football teams when it comes to the draft, but over the years you do start to get a feel for how things may play out in a general sense.
Without trying to infuse personal preferences into the picks too much, here’s a look at how the first round of the NFL draft might pan out.
1. Houston Texans
The Pick: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The Texans will look long and hard at the quarterbacks and won't be able to decide which of the bunch is going to have the best career.
Jadeveon Clowney is worthy of the No. 1 overall pick, but he doesn't necessarily fit into Houston's 3-4 front, which is precisely why a rare talent such as Mario Williams was allowed to move onto the Buffalo Bills, where he is currently the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, based on the average salary of $16 million per year, according to Spotrac.
Houston would certainly consider trading out of the top spot if the price is right, which would allow it to address multiple needs in a deep crop of rookies.
Mack is an elite player who shined in every aspect of the evaluation process. There's no doubt he's worthy of the first overall pick in this draft. Picking Khalil Mack may surprise many, but it could be more of a possibility than most seem to think.
2. St. Louis Rams
The Pick: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Rams need an offensive tackle pretty badly, but they just can’t pass up the opportunity to draft a rare, transcendent athlete like Jadeveon Clowney. With chatter circulating about his motor/effort, allow me to offer an inkling of assurance that effort is in no way an issue for Mr. Clowney. Though he may not have the highest motor in football, it certainly isn’t a liability.
Greg Robinson could be a serious candidate at play here, but there should be talented blockers available when the Rams pick again at 13th. Prospects like Clowney only come around once every decade, so when they land in your lap you take it.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Jaguars have been looking for a franchise quarterback since the organization began. Plus, head coach Gus Bradley has an affinity for running quarterbacks, which he expounds on in this new conference via ESPN:
I think it provides that added dimension to a game that really as a defense you can't hone in and say, well we have a real good feel this quarterback is going to be here in all of our games, in all of our pressures, in all of our rush. You still have to get to him. It's a challenge in itself, but the added dimension that they can escape and extend the play and create big plays, that throws another dimension into it.
Manziel could turn out to be the best player in this draft. One thing we can guarantee is that he will be widely discussed and heavily scrutinized.
4. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Browns can’t afford to skip out on one of the big-name QB prospects with the fourth overall selection. IF the need for quarterback wasn't already dire enough, they have already said goodbye to former first-round pick Brandon Weeden and sent Jason Campbell packing.
Brian Hoyer, the most promising quarterback remaining on the roster, is not the answer as the face of an organization—even an organization largely considered inept from the top down.
Manziel is the popular target here and could be available, but if the top three picks play out like this, Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles will be the likely play here. It really comes down to which of these two QBs they like more.
Trying to get inside the head of the Browns organization requires the removal of a long-term plan and a certain degree of insanity.
5. Oakland Raiders
The Pick: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
If these are the options Reggie McKenzie has to pick from at No. 5, he is sure to consider Greg Robinson as an upgrade to the left tackle position. However, elite talent at receiver is too tempting to pass up here.
Sammy Watkins is the best player available here and is the total embodiment of a complete player. The wideout from Clemson literally has no weaknesses on a football field. Expect greatness and expect it fast with Sammy Watkins in the NFL.
Blake Bortles might be a thought here considering they could certainly use a franchise quarterback, but McKenzie is on his last leg as the GM and cannot afford to miss in the first round this year. Bortles is an unfinished product with tremendous upside, but Watkins is as close to a “can’t miss” prospect as you’re going to get these days.
The bottom line here is the Raiders need playmakers on offense. Watkins may be the more complete prospect in that regard in this draft.
6. Atlanta Falcons
The Pick: Greg Robinson
Atlanta’s GM, Thomas Dimitroff, has his eye on Jadeveon Clowney in the same way he fell in love with WR Julio Jones a few years earlier. He will likely try to move up and draft Clowney if the price is right, but there are no guarantees that will work out. Clowney is the ideal target for the Falcons but may have to settle for someone else.
Besides, most Falcons fans already know this team is in dire need of a few offensive tackles. Lucky for them they have the pick of the litter at No. 6 overall. Greg Robinson is the guy who makes the most sense here for them, especially with Clowney, Mack and Watkins already off the board.
Those three players are the only prospects I could see Dimitroff sacrificing an offensive tackle for, and even then he would have to think long and hard about anyone other than Clowney. Robinson gives the Falcons an immediate upgrade at a position of critical need. Somebody has to protect the face of the organization. This could be the investment they need as opposed to the investment they want.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
With the last of the big-name quarterbacks falling here, the Bucs will likely be tempted to trade down as several QB-needy teams begin to pick up their phones in hopes to jump into the seventh spot and steal Blake Bortles.
Lovie Smith and Company don’t appear to be sold on Mike Glennon as their quarterback of the future, which is partly why they added Josh McCown in free agency.
McCown is 34 years old and would make a great mentor to a guy like Bortles, giving the rookie a chance to work his way into the starting role without being thrown into something he wasn't ready for.
8. Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: Justin Gilbert, CB, Texas
The Vikings need a quarterback in the worst way. They would probably be one of the teams mentioned in the previous draft trying to trade up with the Bucs to snag Bortles at seven. With the best quarterbacks already yanked off the board, the Vikings may consider reaching for Derek Carr here but would hopefully come to their senses and maybe try for him in the latter part of the first round instead.
Gilbert is unanimously considered one of the best corners available, although Jason Verrett had the most impressive tape at his position. Gilbert should go first considering he has ideal size for the NFL, is next level and is not far behind Verrett in football ability.
Verrett would be a nice complement to one of last year's first-round picks, Xavier Rhodes.
9. Buffalo Bills
The Pick: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
EJ Manuel needs weapons in the worst way to help give him some early confidence. Mike Evans can help make this offense much more dynamic. He pairs up nicely opposite Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods.
With Evans, Buffalo will have the red-zone option and deep threat it's been looking for, which should force attention away from the proven veteran, Stevie Johnson.
At 6’5”, 231 pounds, Evans can cover a lot of ground with his long strides. He also makes for a huge target who is capable and willing to fight for a ball like a power forward fights for a rebound.
10. Detroit Lions
The Pick: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
With the addition of Golden Tate via free agency, the Lions are now able to focus their attention on an area of extreme need. Louis Delmas was let go at safety, which only increases the urgency to upgrade a position that’s already been a weakness for several years.
Calvin Pryor is a hard-hitting, aggressive tone-setter on defense who brings a much-needed swagger to the Lions secondary. There are holes in this kid's game in terms of coverage awareness and lateral movement, but he should be more of an asset when taken as a whole.
We’ve seen these type of players have a lot of success in recent years at the NFL level with Dashon Goldson, Kam Chancellor and Donte Whitner.
11. Tennessee Titans
The Pick: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
With the switch to the 3-4 defensive front, outside linebacker and a capable pass-rusher becomes a huge priority for the Titans.
Grabbing Anthony Barr here has to feel good for the organization when you factor in his enormous upside. Barr is a physical freak who can fly for a guy north of 250 pounds and proved he can be productive when highlighted by opponents.
Of all the edge-rushers in this draft, Barr had the highest speed/weight grade, which averages the player's times in the 40-yard dash, short shuttle and three-cone drill, then factors that time with his weight.
When it comes to his tape, there are some rough patches, but he’s certainly a positive value outside of the top 10 here.
12. New York Giants
The Pick: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Giants have a lot of holes to fill after losing Hakeem Nicks and Justin Tuck, but their offensive line is a glaring weakness that they simply can’t ignore with this pick.
With that said, if there was a true defensive end with dynamic pass-rush skills available at this point, the Giants would probably consider taking him here. Dee Ford is on the small side and has not put together a large body of work just yet.
Taylor Lewan is a better athlete with more upside than Jake Matthews, and their tape study reveals similar enough effort, technique and abilities to go with the guy who has the better physical gifts—that guy is Lewan.
13. St. Louis Rams
The Pick: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
After snagging Clowney with the second pick, Matthews slides right to the team who almost drafted him at No. 2. The NFL draft can sometimes work that way for teams who play the game properly. With the selection of Matthews here, that makes three former Aggies on the offensive side of the ball taken within the top 13.
Does this raise questions about how much each prospect contributed to the success of the other?
Head coach Jeff Fisher is very familiar with the Matthews family and likely sees a lot of similarities between Bruce Matthews and his son Jake.
Throughout the 2013 season Jake Matthews was widely considered the top offensive tackle in the league. For him to be available at 13 is certainly considered a downward slide for him.
His tape does not confirm him to be a blocker who does all the extras like hustle downfield or finish his blocks. In addition, blocking for Manziel presents a difficult challenge for scouting his pass protection abilities given the erratic movements of Manziel and tendency to break the pocket. This appears to cause opponents to slow-play the rush, thus aiding Matthews significantly.
14. Chicago Bears
The Pick: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Henry Melton is likely gone via free agency, and Jay Ratliff is on the wrong side of 30. Aaron Donald fits the undersized tackle mold the Bears seem to covet.
Donald’s insane performance at the scouting combine paired with his impressive ability to provide an inside rush has catapulted this undersized lineman right into the mid-range of the first round. He is now widely considered the best interior lineman available this year and could be the next Geno Atkins.
The Bears would love to replace the loss of Julius Peppers with this pick, but the right value for a defensive end just isn’t available here. Look for that move to be made in Round 2 or 3—unless of course they trade back into the bottom half of the first round and seek out Dee Ford.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
There are a few directions the Steelers could go here at 15. The youth movement must commence on the defensive side of the ball where there are certainly a lot of areas of need. Safety is a priority in a Dick LeBeau-led defense, and the drop-off after Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety is dramatic.
It makes sense to take the best safety off the board here considering the talent is so deep at other positions. Clinton-Dix is a well-rounded field general with good size and makes the most of his opportunities for big plays.
He may not be the best athlete at the position, but he certainly shows impressive playmaking instincts and can navigate center field with impressive command.
16. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
For a big man this guy has impressive fluidity and moves well. He reminds me of a former teammate of mine, Brandon Mebane from Cal.
It would be nice to see Jernigan making more plays behind the line of scrimmage, but he does have the build, strength and athleticism to excel at the next level.
The risk with Jernigan is whether or not he’ll put it all together and become a dominant player. From his tape it appears as though a solid starter is what the Cowboys are buying here. But when you need interior help on the defensive side like Dallas does, you might have to sacrifice great prospects for suitable ones.
Besides, Jernigan does seem to fit the mold of an ideal Tampa 2 player.
17. Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
We’ve learned from the Patriots just how valuable it can be to have two talented pass-catchers at the tight end position. Eric Ebron is a great value pick here who pairs nicely with Dennis Pitta and can surely provide quarterback Joe Flacco with yet another weapon on offense.
Ebron is quick, explosive and has the ability to stretch the field from inside the hashes. There are a number of teams with their eye on this prospect in the first round, and the Ravens will have a hard time passing him up if he’s still around at 17.
18. New York Jets
The Pick: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Jets need weapons on offense and had every intention of going for a receiver or tight end here to pair with Eric Decker and Geno Smith.
Unfortunately, Eric Ebron was snagged one pick earlier, and the depth and the receiver position in this draft class dictates the Jets don’t need to jump the gun just yet for offensive weapons. This is especially true when a talented player, albeit linebacker, like C.J. Mosley happens to be available at 18.
If there is a position in this draft that has a huge drop-off quickly, that position would be inside linebacker. Mosley is by far the best available interior guy and is a position of need. They can still grab a quality receiver in Round 2 who can end up being a very talented starter.
19. Miami Dolphins
The Pick: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
The Dolphins have a lot of flexibility with this pick and could go in several directions now that they have signed Branden Albert to shore up the left tackle spot. But considering Ryan Tannehill was sacked more than any other quarterback in the NFL last year and Jonathan Martin was traded away to the 49ers, the Dolphins could still use a bit more help on the offensive line.
Morgan Moses is an underrated tackle who I felt had the most impressive tape of all tackles not named Greg Robinson. Effort and consistency are the primary assets in Moses’ game. He also knows how to completely shut down talented pass-rushers—something the Fins can truly appreciate.
20. Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
While Carson Palmer plays out the last few years of his career, the Cardinals have a chance to grab a big-arm prospect in a similar mold to Palmer himself.
Derek Carr is determined not to follow in his brother’s (David Carr) footsteps by fading away into oblivion in disappointing fashion. Like his brother, Derek has a world-class arm and comes from Fresno State. However, Derek has the added advantage of learning from his brother’s experience and mentorship regarding the business of the NFL and the quarterback position as a whole.
The big concern with Carr is his tendency to shrink under duress to an alarming degree. Poise is a critical trait for an NFL quarterback, and it seems to be one that unfortunately eludes Mr. Carr.
21. Green Bay Packers
The Pick: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Packers have bigger needs at other positions, but they were surprised a player like Dennard would fall into their lap this late. Sometimes you have to go with the best guy on your board. Besides, in a passing league, can you really ever have a surplus of top-quality cover guys? Perhaps a surplus in this area will make up for the deficit at the safety position.
The recent acquisition of Julius Peppers and the re-signing of B.J. Raji does take some pressure off the defensive front. Inside linebacker is an area of focus, but the matching talent is not available here if the draft plays out in this way. I doubt the Packers would pass up on C.J. Mosley or Eric Ebron if either should be available at 21.
22. Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Chip Kelly and the Eagles are difficult to peg down here considering we only have a sample size of one year. That year did seem to reveal a strong bias toward Pac-12 prospects in 2013. With that said, Kelly saw what Marqise Lee can do firsthand while coaching in the Pac-12, where Lee terrorized opponents for three years.
Lee should be happy to be reunited with his former quarterback, Matt Barkley. These two had good chemistry in college. Unfortunately the only chance they’ll likely get to rekindle that synergy on a football field is in practice or the preseason.
Marqise Lee has elite elusiveness and is extremely dangerous after the catch. His body control is an asset as well.
Two of the biggest concerns surrounding this intriguing prospect are his hands and finesse style of play. The Eagles don’t seem to have much of a problem with finesse players at the skill positions as long as they have the requisite talent to make up for it.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
The Pick: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Alex Smith needs weapons, and the Chiefs figure they could still snag a quality wideout in Round 2. Jace Amaro was an extremely productive tight end at Texas Tech, leading all tight ends in receiving yards with 1,352.
Amaro has good size and reliable hands. He should be a valuable target for the ultra-conservative Alex Smith, who rarely ventures outside the hashes. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is another option here, but Amaro is less stiff and a better route-runner.
The Chiefs could consider one of the many talented receivers available at this pick, or they may opt for a corner. At some point throughout the draft these are areas that will need to be addressed.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
The Pick: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
With Michael Johnson moving on to a more lucrative contract and James Harrison being released earlier this week, a talented young pass-rusher at an affordable price could be a wise move for the Bengals at 24.
Dee Ford is quick and explosive though undersized at 6’2”, 252 pounds. He’s been climbing up draft boards ever since his impressive performance all week during the Senior Bowl, where he capped it off with being named MVP of the actual game itself.
The Bengals could be looking at a defensive tackle, but there really isn’t a prospect who fits the bill here.
If you’re thinking Ra’Shede Hageman is a good option here, I would disagree based on his lumbering and lazy quality consistent with his tape. Hageman does intrigue teams with his size and strength, but it rarely translates into disruption on a football field. With that said, teams can certainly value Hageman’s upside more than his questionable effort and quickness.
25. San Diego Chargers
The Pick: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Chargers are in a great spot here to grab who I believe is the most impressive cornerback in this draft class in terms of his tape and athleticism alone.
The only question about Jason Verrett projecting to the next level is his less-than-ideal height, measuring just under the 5’10” mark. Even though Verrett is short in stature, he certainly reduces that concern with an incredible vertical jump of 39 inches.
Verrett is incredible at breaking on the ball and knocking down passes. He’s also a physical tackler who rarely misses.
26. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
With the combination of top-tier production and a blazing sub-4.4 40-yard dash time, it doesn’t really matter that Cooks doesn’t show up well when you analyze his tape. NFL personnel men tend to be blinded by blazing speed and huge numbers in college.
I'm personally not a huge fan of Brandin Cooks as an option here, but in an attempt to predict the NFL's tendency, Cooks is likely going to be picked somewhere in the late first round. I can easily see the Browns being the team to pull the trigger here.
After all, the Browns have established a pattern of poor decision-making, and Brandin Cooks could be seen as a huge complement alongside Josh Gordon, or he could live out the more likely scenario, which is to shrink on the big stage and fall into the disappointing realm of a role player and depth guy.
This is a risky pick with a lot of potential upside. But at least one of their two first-round picks has to work out, right?
I mean, if a team actually has two failed first-round draft picks in one season that would be worse odds than just throwing darts at a list of prospects.
Browns fans, you know what I'm talking about. Keep your chin up. Things can always get worse. Look at it this way: At least you found a guy who wanted to coach for you, right?
27. New Orleans Saints
The Pick: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
The Saints need pass-rushers more than anything on defense. Many people have Kyle Van Noy going in the second or even third round, but I see nothing but first-round value with this kid.
If you were to bottle up what Tyrann Mathieu has and infuse it into an outside linebacker's body, you would essentially create Kyle Van Noy.
It's hard to imagine any scenario where the Saints don't think defensively in the first round. Other possible candidates include Stephen Tuitt, Ra'Shede Hageman or Dominique Easley.
28. Carolina Panthers
The Pick: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The Panthers must give quarterback Cam Newton weapons in this draft. The sooner they do this, the better. Fortunately for Carolina, this draft is deep in receivers, which should give it a plethora of options to pick from even at pick 28. Don’t be surprised if the Panthers elect to grab two receivers before the draft is said and done.
One of my favorite receivers in the draft is Penn State’s Allen Robinson. At 6’2”, 220 pounds, this guy has all the makings of an All-Pro wide receiver at the next level. He is one of the more dangerous weapons with the ball in his hand and can turn a quick slant into a 60-yard touchdown, breaking four or five tackles along the way.
Robinson had quality hands, but he will drop the occasional ball. In many ways he shows similarities to the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant and the Colts’ Hakeem Nicks.
29. New England Patriots
The Pick: Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame
When All-Pro tackle Vince Wilfork went down with injury last year the Patriots deteriorated defensively to the point where they finished last in the league in rush defense. Now it appears the Patriots and Wilfork will be parting ways, leaving a huge void in the middle of the defense.
Louis Nix has an injury history with his knee, but if he can prove healthy, he is the best replacement for Wilfork available. This is an area of need head coach Bill Belichick must address no matter how much the Patriots may want to add a tight end here. Nix is built similarly to Wilfork and is a great anchor to shore up the center of the defense.
30. San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
With the release of Carlos Rogers and losing both Tarell Brown and Donte Whitner to free agency, nearly the entire secondary of the 49ers is being overhauled this offseason. They did with Antoine Bethea and Chris Cook, but depth and youth are certainly in order in the back end of that defense.
The 49ers could possibly look to bring in an interior lineman, but it doesn’t seem like there’s anyone they would target at 30 here. Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt could be a suitable candidate and would make a lot of sense.
Roby is a rare physical talent with a few off-the-field issues to contend with. His resume on film is inconsistent, as he seems to turn it on and off at times. If you put this guy in the hands of the right coach and motivator, Roby has the assets to become a star in the NFL.
31. Denver Broncos
The Pick: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
The Buckeyes produce back-to-back selections in the latter portion of the first round. Like Roby, there’s no doubt Shazier is the type of physical freak who comes around once every few years. But this athletic dynamo is certainly more impressive in shorts than he is in uniform.
The Broncos could use serious help at the linebacker position. Inside linebacker is their primary need, but Shazier has the skills to play any of the linebacker positions. His explosiveness and sideline-to-sideline ability should give the Broncos a significant upgrade on defense—especially when paired with all of the big-name free-agent acquisitions over the last few days.
32. Seattle Seahawks
The Pick: Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
The Seahawks should be a more explosive passing attack in 2014 with a healthy Percy Harvin, but they also need to replace the losses of Golden Tate and Sidney Rice.
Odell Beckham is a great value at 32 for Seattle and would be tough for them to pass up here. Many experts consider Beckham to be a top-five wideout in a jam-packed class of pass-catchers. He has the quickness and burst to make defenders miss and displays the playmaking instincts teams covet in their ball-carriers.
Beckham is not just a guy who catches the ball and falls down, nor is he one who will rush to get out of bounds after securing the ball. Beckham looks for the big play every time he’s given the chance.
Sharing passes with teammate Jarvis Landry has caused some concern about his tendency to be more of a complement receiver rather than a focal point. There were many games in 2013 when Beckham had a minimal impact on the outcome of the game, as his quarterback seemed to have more trust in Landry.
With that said, his combine and entire predraft performance has only helped his case as a first-round prospect. He is absolutely a guy whose stock is on the rise.
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player who now writes for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter for more draft info.