New year, new mock: 2014 NFL Mock Draft Version 2.0 to be exact. Version 2.0 of my 2014 NFL Mock Draft features changes to over 65% of the selections from my Version 1.1 2014 NFL Mock Draft.
The Houston Texans seem to be questioning the idea that Teddy Bridgewater is the obvious choice at #1. The St. Louis Rams will no doubt be on the phones the second the Super Bowl comes to an end, because their position at #2 provides them with almost no value. The Jacksonville Jaguars must decide between yet another quarterback or a skill player that could help them now. Check out my Version 2.0 2014 NFL Mock Draft below:
1. Houston Texans: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville Cardinals
This pick is not as obvious as it was earlier in the season. The Texans need a QB, but Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel are closing in on Bridgewater as the favorite to go #1 in the draft. Whoever the Texans do decide to go with, we do know that they want a game-changer type of QB moving forward. The game-manager style of Matt Schaub is a thing of the past for this Texans team.
2. Cleveland Browns (TRADE: Washington Redskins via St. Louis Rams): QB Blake Bortles, UCF Knights
St. Louis will not be picking at #2. The Browns will look to land their QB of the future in UCF’s Blake Bortles. Jacksonville is very high on Bortles and the Rams are looking to sell the #2 pick. The Browns will have to pull the trigger to land him and will trade their other pick later in the 1st round to do it. Bortles has a strong arm and the ability to scramble (a la Aaron Rodgers) and would be a good fit for the NFL. Bortles could easily go #1 at the rate he is flying up draft boards. The Browns can still target a receiver later in the draft to pair with Josh Gordon or another offensive lineman. Now this would raise the ceiling of this offense by a mile.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina Gamecocks
The Jags lose out on Blake Bortles but are nowhere near ready to draft another QB anyways. Plus, they have plenty of holes to fill. They will get lucky with Clowney, probably the most talented player in the draft, falling to them at #3. Besides, the Jags GM said they would build around Blaine Gabbert. I don’t understand it either, but it makes the Clowney pick make even more sense. Jacksonville could also look to take Johnny Manziel or trade down to collect more picks.
4. St. Louis Rams (TRADE: via Cleveland Browns): WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson Tigers
The Rams will trade down because most of their needs are not worth a #2 pick. Many teams will be scrambling to select a QB, but the Browns have the assets in the 2014 draft to make the trade worthwhile. The Rams will need to surround Sam Bradford with some more weapons. #4 is a little high for Sammy Watkins, but if they are sticking with Sam Bradford at QB, or any QB for that matter, they need to give him more firepower to succeed. Sammy Watkins has home run potential on every play and will cause a lot of problems for defenses when paired with Tavon Austin.
Previous Pick (#2): OT Jake Mathews
5. Oakland Raiders: OT Jake Mathews, Texas A&M Aggies
Jake Mathews may be the most reliable prospect in the draft, and for the Raiders’ sake, I hope they realize that. With everyone else reaching for quarterbacks or home run possibilities, Jake Mathews may very well fall down to #5 or lower. If the Raiders don’t fall into the same trap, they could come away with their left tackle of the future. He will instantly make the job easier for whomever is playing under center next year for the Raiders.
Previous Pick: QB Johnny Manziel
6. Atlanta Falcons: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA Bruins
The Atlanta Falcons were terrible this season after Super Bowl aspirations in the pre-season. The two biggest reasons for their poor season was the rushing attack and the defense. It is far too early to draft a runningback, so they will go with pass-rusher Anthony Barr, who happens to also be the most talented guy left on the board. Barr is an ex-FB with a lot of knowledge about offense, and it has translated into very good instincts on defense. The Falcons may have to move up to make sure they can snatch him.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo Bulls
The Buccaneers were 23rd in the NFL this season in sacks, and gave up 30+ points 6 times. The Bucs will benefit by adding another pass rusher. Mack is a physical freak and never stops working to get to the quarterback. Mack would instantly improve the Titans defense with his skill, but more importantly, his attitude. Mack is also the best defensive player available at this point. The Bucs also need some weapons on offense. Watkins could fall to them at #7 if the Rams trade down, but TE Eric Ebron is another option if he doesn’t.
Previous Pick: WR Sammy Watkins
8. Minnesota Vikings: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M Aggies
Christian Ponder is not the future at QB for the Vikings. Johnny Manziel is a pretty good QB option when you ignore the character issues. The guy can flat out fly and his passing has improved significantly over his Heisman year. Minnesota is desperate to find their next QB, and Manziel definitely has the skill to be their franchise QB for a long time. Minnesota may also be the perfect place for Manziel to settle down and finally focus on football.
Previous Pick: QB Derek Carr
9. Buffalo Bills: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina Tar Heels
It may be a little early to take Ebron here, but the Bills need to add some weapons for now-2nd year QB, EJ Manuel. Adding Ebron creates a mismatch for almost any defender in the NFL. Ebron is fast, physical, and can make insane catches in contact. Eric Ebron would make life for EJ Manuel much easier in the open field, and especially in the red zone. Offensive guard is another option here for the Bills.
10. Detroit Lions: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State Spartans
Dennard is the top ranked corner in the draft. Detroit had the 23rd ranked passing defense in the NFL and need some help at corner. Chris Houston has played well, but Rashean Mathis is already 33 years old and failed to intercept a pass all year. Dennard is rising up the ranks again after a great game against Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
Previous Pick: WR Mike Evans
11. Tennessee Titans: QB Derek Carr, Fresno State Bulldogs
The Titans should learn not to take the “next-best” QB in the draft, but they won’t. From what I’ve seen from Derek Carr, he is maybe the 4th best QB in this draft. His stock fell even more for me after his pedestrian game in the Las Vegas Bowl against USC (the best team he played this season). I would mock him even lower if Hundley or Mariotta came out. The Vikings will not learn from their mistake with Jake Locker, and reach for Derek Carr with the 11th pick.
Previous Pick: OLB Khalil Mack
12. New York Giants: OT Greg Robinson, Auburn Tigers
Eli Manning suffered a great deal this season due to the lackluster play on the offensive line. Robinson is a prototypical left tackle in terms or height, weight, arm length, and athleticism. He is quick and agile on the line, and shows a powerful burst when run blocking. He is, however, only a redshirt sophomore and has little experience at the left tackle position. This shows in his lack of technique when he drops into pass protection. Technique, unlike size and natural ability, can be learned, and I would expect the Giants to invest a great deal of energy into Robinson, who could be the best tackle in the NFL in just a few years.
Previous Pick: CB Darqueze Dennard
13. St. Louis Rams: S HaHa Clinton-Dix, Alabama Rolling Tide
The Rams will be getting the top safety in the draft in Clinton-Dix. The safety play of the Rams was terrible this season. They will look for an upgrade to play with TJ McDonald. Clinton-Dix is probably the best defensive player available at this point, although the Rams could also go with a corner here, since Cortland Finnegan has been horrible this season.
14. Chicago Bears: DE Ra’shede Hageman, Minnesota Gophers
If the Rams take HaHa with the 13th pick, the Bears may need to reach to find a player at a position of need worth a #14 overall pick. The Bears need help on the defensive line, offensive line, and at safety. Their defensive line has been plagued with injuries all year, so they must get younger there. Ra’shede Hageman has elite size (6’6″, 311 lbs.) for a 4-3 DT and shows good ability as a pass-rusher. He consistently gets penetration in the middle and disrupts the pocket for opposing QBs with 11 tackles for loss, but must improve his stamina to succeed in the NFL.
Previous Pick: OG David Yankey
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: FS Calvin Pryor, Louisville Cardinals
Calvin Pryor is flying up draft boards. He even surpassed his fellow Louisville safety, Hakeem Smith. He can play both safety spots because he is a vicious hitter and great tackler, but athletic enough to make plays in center field. Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu are getting older and less effective, so safety is a major position of concern for the Steelers. Pryor hasn’t been tested much in coverage, but could fill Polamalu’s shoes nicely. The Steelers could also go with a corner here, since Ike Taylor is 33.
Previous Pick: OT Taylor Lewan
16. Dallas Cowboys: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri Tigers
The Cowboys need some help along the defensive line. They were tied for 26th in the NFL in sacks, and recently switched to a 4-3 defense. The defensive scheme looks much better than the 3-4 of the past few seasons, but they still need to add some personnel to complete the switch. Kony Ealy is a good prospect for the 4-3 DE because he is very athletic and can play the run and rush the passer. Ealy and Demarcus Ware would make a great bookend pass rush duo.