This marks the fifth time I have done one of these mock drafts, and can honestly say that I have never been more excited. The extra month’s wait has made the build-up to this draft almost nauseating. Just to avoid any confusion, I will be picking these players based on who I think is the best player for each team. Also I have found that it’s practically impossible to predict when a trade might occur, but I will make note of some teams that I think should look to trade down, as well as some teams that could be in prime position to trade up. Without further ado, here is my 2014 NFL Mock Draft!
1. Texans —- Jadeveon Clowney DE Possible Trade Partners: Bills, Falcons
Let me be clear, here. I don’t think Clowney is the best player in the draft. Sure, he has a lot of talent and had a sophomore season, but the fact that he noticeably took plays off last year has me a little concerned. Unfortunately I seem to be in the minority here. I know that defensive lineman take plays off time to time, but the lack of effort that he seemed to display throughout the season was, well, alarming. Regardless I strongly believe that the Falcons could swing a deal to land the star defensive lineman. If, however, the Texans are stuck at this pick, Wade Phillips will have fun finding a way to get Clowney on the field. Scheme wise, attitude wise, effort wise, Clowney just doesn’t seem like the right fit, yet here he lands.
2. Rams —- Greg Robinson OT
How many more years can Sam Bradford be THE answer for the Rams? It’s like Bradford is a cat, his nine lives never seem to wear out. The front office continues to stand with the quarterback from Oklahoma, so Robinson seems like the best option. I am of the opinion that St. Louis would be nuts to trade down here, mainly because Robinson is an elite talent that fills a need. With one need now off the board, the Rams can focus on choosing the best available player with their number 13 pick.
3. Jaguars —- Khalil Mack OLB
It’s funny, in my mock draft last year I mentioned that Gus Bradley, the former defensive coordinator of the Seahawks and the now current head coach of the Jaguars, is hell bent on improving the defense. Naturally he then signs two aging defensive linemen from the Seahawks, Red Bryant and Chris Clemons. Mack, however would bring energy and youthfulness to a Jacksonville team that some say might challenge the Colts for the best spot in the AFC North. Personally, I don’t see it, but Mack instantly makes the Jaguars defense credible, and fills a large gap in their scheme. Sometimes, it’s just that easy.
4. Browns —- Sammy Watkins WR Possible Trade Partner: Cowboys
Couldn’t you just see Jerry Jones trading up with the Browns to secure Manziel? There is no way the Browns would or should take Manziel this high, but the chatter surrounding the two teams could be enough to fuel another stupid Jerry Jones trade. However, if the Browns stay at number four, they will draft Watkins, the dynamic receiver from Clemson, who in my mind is the best prospect in this draft. Brian Hoyer, in his limited time as starter last year, performed admirably. Now imagine what he can do at quarterback with weapons such as Jordan Cameron, Josh Gordon, Ben Tate and Sammy Watkins surrounding him? Yeah, it’s exciting to me too!
5. Raiders —- Jake Matthews OT
Reggie McKenzie, the GM of the Raiders, is on the hot seat. While it might be more beneficial in the long run to trade down, I believe McKenzie will be looking to hit a home run. Matthews, while not necessarily a need-filler, certainly is a home run kind of talent. His NFL royal bloodlines and pass protection skills make Matthews an almost instant starter. His versatility also (he can play both tackle positions as well as guard) confirms that theory. And let’s be honest, does anyone even know who Austin Howard is (if you’re wondering, that’s the current right tackle for the Raiders)?
6. Falcons —- Taylor Lewan OT Possible Trade Partners: Lions, Bills, Ravens
This might be the worst case scenario for the Falcons. Any of the three teams mentioned above would be perfect trade partners for the Falcons. Each of them has a need at receiver, and Mike Evans, the next best receiver, would not make it past the Buccanears at seven. However, I can’t make trades, I can only project them. Lewan is a talented offensive lineman from Michigan. His height (6’7’’) makes him an unattractive option as a right tackle, meaning Sam Baker, the incumbent left tackle, may have to move to another location along the offensive line.
7. Bucs —- Mike Evans WR
I told you he wasn’t going to last past seven! This is one of those picks that the Bucs will run up to the podium in 10 seconds. Evans is one of my favorite players in the draft. He has that rare ability to go up and get the ball, regardless of who is covering him. This might be a dangerous comparison, but he reminds me a little or Randy Moss at the point of attack. Granted, Evans is nowhere near as fast as Moss, but you get my point. More importantly, Tampa Bay fills a need at receiver and a perfect complement to the equally tall Vincent Jackson.
8. Vikings —- Blake Bortles QB
This boils down to scheme. Honestly, I think the Vikings like Bortles more. Every indication from the Vikings front office seems to point to Bortles, making the UCF junior the first quarterback off the board. I’ve talked about Bortles before in my previous columns for the St. Norbert Times and I will say it again, he has all the intangibles you look for in a quarterback. More importantly, he steps into a situation where he doesn’t have to start right away, given Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel are still on the roster.
9. Bills —- Aaron Donald DT Possible Trade Partner: Bears
At this point, Buffalo is in the classic “take the best available player” mode. All the experts make Donald seem like the second-coming of Warren Sapp, but I just don’t see it. However, the Bears have been linked to Donald almost since day one of the combine, and I think Buffalo might do well trading back here. There needs (receiver, offensive line, defensive back) don’t quite fit with the rest of the board. However, if the Bills are unable to trade back Buffalo would have a fearsome front four consisting of Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Aaron Donald.
10. Lions —- Justin Gilbert CB
I’m of the opinion that Darqueze Dennard is the best cornerback option in the draft, so this Justin Gilbert pick might be a little surprising. However, Gilbert has the size (6’0) to match up with some of the bigger receivers in the NFC North, such as Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Jordy Nelson. To me, the two corners are interchangeable at this pick. The only way the Lions select someone other than a corner is if Mike Evans is magically still available at 10, and I don’t see that happening.
11. Titans —- Anthony Barr OLB Possible Trade Partner: Literally anyone
I don’t know what to make of Barr. At first, he was a top five consensus pick. Then he fell out of the top 20. Now he is situated right in the middle, probably where he belongs. While Barr still has work to do to become an elite edge rusher, he was productive for UCLA, recording 10 sacks last year, four of which coming against USC and Oregon. Ultimately the Titans are in a position to trade down and still acquire the best player available, making this the first of many potential spots for the Manziel free fall to end.
12. Giants —- Eric Ebron TE
The Giants are one of the few teams in the NFL that effectively use their tight end. In fact Eli Manning seems to only target his tight end when the rush is on. Perhaps this is why Eli has led the league in interceptions for what feels like 15 years. I digress. Ebron is a flashy pick for a team devoid of flash (Cruz doesn’t count as flashy). I believe he could become the next Jeremy Shockey (personality and talent wise).
13. Rams —- Ha-Ha Clinton Dix S
Once again, need and best player available player mesh perfectly for the Rams. Seriously, can you name one Rams safety without using a search engine of some sort. Neither can I (T.J McDonald and Rodney McLeod in case you were wondering). Dix, in my opinion is the best available safety in this particular draft class. Aside from his hard-hitting ability, Dix is a capable cover safety and can provide an intimidating presence against the run.
14. Bears —- Calvin Pryor S
Back to back safeties here. Honestly, this pick might be a reach, but if you polled Chicago nation I think a lot of their concern would revolve around the defensive secondary. Pryor is right up there with Dix in his abilities as a safety. And as a Packer fan, I would honestly be a little afraid of roaming Pryor in the secondary. I can also see someone like Darqueze Dennard or Kyle Fuller here. Either way the Bears improve their secondary with their first round selection.
15. Steelers —- Darqueze Dennard CB Possible Trade Partner: Whoever wants Manziel
There might not be a better spot for Dennard than in Dick LeBeau’s scheme. Dennard can cover, roam in the middle of the secondary and blitz the quarterback when called upon. He is a jack-of-all-trades defensive back who provides versatility to a defense that is trying to rebuild on the fly. I could also see a receiver taken here, but I am not too fond of the available receivers at this particular moment.
16. Cowboys —- Zack Martin OT
I will be honest, I’m stuck here. I think the Cowboys would be stupid to take Manziel considering they are paying Romo 100 million for the course of his career. And I don’t know if Dallas is interested in someone like Ryan Shazier or C.J Mosley considering they have Sean Lee. Ultimately I think Zack Martin is a quality offensive tackle who could replace Wisconsin native Doug Free on the right side. It’s not flashy, but at this point, Martin is the best player. After this point, any team remaining should look to trade down to a quarterback needy team on the hunt for Johnny Manziel.
17. Ravens —- C.J Mosley ILB
To me, Mosley represents the poor-man’s Ray Lewis. No one can have as much heart and desire as Ray Ray, but Mosley might just have the same amount of talent. He’s an instinctive player who can fill a gap and still make a play. At 6’2’’, 232 pounds, he is a physical presence capable of making athletic plays considering he has five interceptions over his collegiate career.
18. Jets —- Odell Beckham Jr. WR
I think the Jets would be pleasantly surprised to see Beckham Jr. fall to them at the number 18 pick. He recorded just under 1200 receiving yards for LSU this year, but was noticeably absent during the team’s final three games tallying just under 100 yards on eight catches. However he has all the intangibles, including elite speed, quickness and elusiveness, making him a can’t miss prospect for the suddenly electric Jets offense.
19. Dolphins —- Morgan Moses OT
I am not a fan of drafting for need, but I believe the Dolphins need to grab an offensive lineman. A variety of names are available at this spot including Ja’Wuan James and Joel Bitonio, but I think Moses provides the right type of fit for the Dolphins. Quite honestly though, anyone who doesn’t pick on their fellow teammates and can hold a block for more than three seconds is basically a win for the Dolphins.
20. Cardinals —- Brandin Cooks WR
I know it’s not an area of need, but I could absolutely see Arizona grab a slot receiver to partner with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Here me out, the Cardinals don’t have any immediate needs. They could afford to spend a pick on speedy receiver like Cooks who could make this offense even more dynamic. I can also see quarterback here, but I just don’t know which one would fit better than Cooks as a slot receiver.
21. Packers —- Ryan Shazier OLB Possible Trade Partner: 49ers, Panthers
I’m not a huge fan of Shazier, but at this point he represents the best available player for Green Bay and fits a need at outside linebacker. Seriously, is it that hard to find an edge rusher opposite of Clay Matthews who can stay healthy for five snaps? More importantly though, I see this a major trade spot considering the Chiefs and Eagles are seemingly desperate for a receiver. A team like the Pantehrs, or *gasp* the 49ers, might make for attractive trade partners considering their needs for receiver as well.
22. Eagles —- Marqise Lee WR
It only took one year, but I believe head coach Chip Kelly can make a star out of any receiver he wants. Lee, who was a star in his own right at USC, could slip right into the whole vacated by the departed DeSean Jackson. While Lee is not the speedster that Jackson was, he can still be a dangerous weapon when used correctly. My bet is Kelly will have big plans for Marqise Lee.
23. Chiefs —- Kelvin Benjamin WR
I think the Chiefs could take a flier pick on the talented receiver from Florida State. Benjamin doesn’t have much going for him in terms of speed (4.61 40-yard dash), but what he lacks in speed he makes up for in height. Paired with Dwanye Bowe, the Chiefs might literally have the tallest receiving duo in the league. Unfortunately they might also have the best “unproven potential” starting receivers in the league.
24. Bengals —- Kyle Fuller DB
It’s as if Cincinnati made the mock draft just for themselves. Fuller is arguably the best cornerback prospect in the draft. The senior from Virginia Tech is durable, amassing 42 starts throughout his collegiate career, and provides some youth to an otherwise aging Bengals secondary.
25. Chargers —- Bradley Roby DB
The run on receivers earlier allows for the Chargers to take care of one of their biggest needs with the selection of Roby. The 5’11’’ red-shirt senior from Ohio State started all 37 games he played in and amassed 44 career pass deflections throughout his collegiate career. More importantly, can you answer everyone’s favorite question “Who were the Chargers starting cornerbacks” last year? Yeah, I have no idea either.
26. Browns —- Johnny Manziel QB
Look, I know the odds of Manziel falling all the way to 26 are unrealistic, but I don’t believe he deserves to go any higher. He has accuracy issues, and could have some durability issues when he starts to take the daily NFL grind. However, I don’t want to sit here and bash Manziel the whole time. The guy is a fiery competitor and I loved the moxie he displayed in his pro day. Honestly, Manziel couldn’t have fallen to a better position. He won’t be asked to start immediately, and he will have Watkins and Gordon to chuck Hail Mary’s to all day long. What could be better than that?
27. Saints —- Timmy Jernigan DT
Maybe this is just name value here, but I think Jernigan has the potential to be one of the best defensive players in this draft. It all depends on his motor and drive. My bet is that Rob Ryan finds a way to get the best out of him. Quietly the Saints have built the foundation of a formidable defensive unit.
28. Panthers —- Donte Moncrief WR
It’s a name many of you might not have heard, but could become Cam Newton’s favorite weapon by the beginning of the year. Moncrief, a multiple long jump state champion and former basketball star in high school, garnerd nearly 1000 receiving yards for a poor Ole Miss team. He has all the physical abilities that the Panthers, and other NFL teams for that matter, crave and fits a dire need for the Panthers. I wouldn’t be surprised if Carolina selects three or more receivers throughout the draft.
29. Patriots —- Kyle Van Noy LB
I also considered Stan Jean-Baptiste, the corner from Nebraska, but ultimately Noy’s versatility won out. He can play all three linebacker positions, perfect for the mix-and-match scheme that Hoodie Bill loves to play.
30. 49ers —- Cody Latimer WR
I fully expect the Niners to trade up in the draft to go after someone that they really like, but if they stay put, Latimer seems like the obvious choice. His height (6’2’’) and speed make him a perfect complement to Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree.
31. Broncos —- Jason Verrett DB
Denver is in a prime position to draft the best available player. Verrett also happens to fill a need at corner. Although the Broncos just signed Aqib Talib, Verrett can go toe-to-toe with Chris Harris for the corner position opposite of the aforementioned Talib.
32. Seahawks —- Ja’Wuan James OT
At 6’6’’, 310 pounds, James is a hulking presence that should provide some teeth to the already ferocious ground game of the Seahawks. He could step in right away and replace incumbent right tackle Michael Bowie.