The 2014 NFL Mock Draft season is officially upon us. By now, you’ve probably read dozens of mock drafts and seen the same names next to the same teams ad nauseam. Hopefully this one is a little more refreshing. Feel free to sound off and question my picks in the comment section.
1. Houston — Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina — Choosing the wrong quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick could quickly destroy a head coach’s career. I know the connections are limitless with Blake Bortles and the need is there, but first-year head coach Billy O’Brien goes with the sure thing here. Clowney and J.J. Watt on the same team? Yikes.
2. St. Louis Rams from Washington Redskins — Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson — After drafting Tavon Austin No. 8 overall last year, the Rams get Sam Bradford another big-time weapon with Watkins. Watkins will take care of the outside while Austin does his work between the numbers.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Blake Bortles, QB, UCF — The Jaguars need a quarterback bad. They land the best one in the draft. Let’s hope this works out better than Blaine Gabbert.
4. Cleveland Browns — Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville — After releasing Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell in the first week of free agency, the Browns all but announced they were drafting a QB. Luckily for them, Bridgewater is still on the board.
5. Oakland Raiders — Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M — Call me crazy, but I still think the Raiders are going quarterback here even after trading for Matt Schaub. Schaub is a stopgap, nothing else. Raiders fans need a little excitement after watching their team miss the playoffs for over a decade. Manziel will bring excitement if nothing else. He also could turn out to be one hell of a quarterback.
6. Atlanta Falcons — Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo — The Falcons got some more beef up front with veteran free-agent additions DT Paul Soliai and DE Tyson Jackson but they still need a legitimate edge rusher who can get after the QB. Mack may be the very best in the draft at doing just that.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn — Anthony Collins was a nice addition in free agency after the Bucs released long-time tackle Donald Penn, but adding another bookend at offensive tackle would be a smart move with their first selection.
8. Minnesota Vikings — Derek Carr, QB, Fresno St. — This is a reach in the eyes of many (including my own), but the Vikings need a quarterback–Matt Cassel isn’t the answer–so this is probably going to happen.
9. Buffalo Bills — Eric Ebron, TE, UNC — The Bills get a serious weapon for E.J. Manuel by drafting the best tight end in the draft.
10. Detroit Lions — Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M — Calvin Johnson can do it all by himself, but that doesn’t mean he should be expected to. Golden Tate was a good signing in that regard, but Mike Evans has a chance to be a special player, especially considering the coverage attention Johnson demands.
11. Tennessee Titans — Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA — With the Titans expected to transition to a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, adding a legitimate edge rusher makes sense. Why not a freak athlete who was successful in a similar defense at UCLA?
12. New York Giants — Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M — The Giants would be thrilled to see Matthews available at this spot. Too much value to pass up.
13. St. Louis Rams — Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan — After getting Bradford another offensive toy, the Rams focus on keeping their QB upright and take the best available offensive lineman on the board.
14. Chicago Bears – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State — Charles Tillman re-signed with the Bears on a one-year deal but he’s 33 and coming off a season-ending injury. Dennard is the most talented defensive back in this draft and could quickly become of the best in the NFL, especially if he learns the ropes from guys like Tillman and Tim Jennings.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers — Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State — The Steelers’ defense is just plain old. Youth is needed all over the defense. The secondary is particularly long in the tooth so they take the best CB on the board here.
16. Dallas Cowboys — Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, FS/SS, Alabama — While drafting defensive line at this spot would seem to make sense, the Cowboys needs safety help just as bad and if the best one is sitting on the board at No. 16, they’ll likely take him.
17. Baltimore Ravens — Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame — The Ravens need to replace Michael Oher after losing him to the Titans in free agency. With experience at guard as well, Zack Martin has the positional flexibility the Ravens covet, but he’s also just a hard-nosed, tough football player. He should be able to start at right tackle immediately.
18. New York Jets — Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU — The Jets probably would have liked Dennard to slide to this spot after cutting ties with Antonio Cromartie and missing out on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in free agency, but they are happy to take Beckham here. With Eric Decker in fold, adding Beckham would really give Michael Vick/Geno Smith a nice offensive arsenal.
19. Miami Dolphins — C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama — I like the Phins going defense here and shoring up their linebacker depth. They spent tons of money on linebackers last offseason and didn’t really get the results they hoped for. Mosley is a terrific inside linebacker with great instincts–he could certainly help.
20. Arizona Cardinals — Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri – John Abraham had a great season last year, leading the Cardinals with 11.5 sacks, but the old man (he’ll be 36 in May) can’t do it forever. Time to inject some talented youth. Ealy was an absolute beast for the Tigers at defensive end and has the athleticism to transition to an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme–versatility the Cardinals will value.
21. Green Bay Packers — Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville — With M.D. Jennings signing with divisional rivals Chicago Bears this offseason, the Packers need to find a quality safety to pair with Morgan Burnett. Pryor has ideal size and athleticism for the position, is explosive against the run and is strong in coverage. He would not only replace Jennings, he’d be an upgrade.
22. Philadelphia Eagles — Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State — After fielding a rather timid secondary last season, the Eagles are likely looking to add some toughness. Adding Roby, who plays with intense aggressiveness, would immediately inject toughness to Philly’s secondary as well athleticism and speed–something else they sorely lacked.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California — The Chiefs don’t have an impact wide receiver on their roster–Dwayne Bowe included. They get an explosive down-field threat in Lee.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Dee Ford, DE, Auburn — The Bengals lost a lot of pass rush when Michael Johnson signed with the Bucs. In Ford, the Bengals get a player who can help alleviate that loss while also landing a player with a much higher ceiling.
25. San Diego Chargers – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech — The Chargers needs to upgrade at corner badly. It doesn’t help that Peyton Manning is in their division. In Fuller, the Bolts get a lengthy, physical corner who hopefully can line up against a team’s top option and be competitive.
26. Cleveland Browns from Indianapolis Colts – Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA — After landing Bridgewater, the Browns get the best guard in the draft to help keep him upright and maul in the running game. Watch out for those Browns!
27. New Orleans Saints – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU — Adding safety Jairus Byrd to pair with Kenny Vaccaro was a big-time move, but the Saints can’t stop there. He may lack ideal size (5’10”, 190 lbs) but has elite speed and athleticism. He’d give the Saints another quality option in their secondary.
28. Carolina Panthers – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State — After losing Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn, Jr. to free agency, Cam Newton is without his top three wide receivers from a season ago. Benjamin would give Newton a massive target (6’5″, 240) who could make an immediate impact in the redzone with potential to develop into a No. 1 option.
29. New England Patriots – Stephon Tuitt, DT/DE, Notre Dame — After loading up in the secondary with the additions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, the Patriots turn their focus up front. Tuitt is unique in that he is massive at 6’5″, 305 lbs but has rare burst and athleticism for his size which allows him to be effective all along a defensive front. Primarily used as a DE in Notre Dame’s 3-4, he could also line up as 3-tech DT and even at DE in a 4-3. The Patriots deploy both three- and four-man fronts on the regular, so Tuitt’s versatility make him a natural fit.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State — The 9ers add another explosive athlete to Colin Kaepernick’s receiving corps. Probably best suited for the slot, Cooks has the the speed to play outside as well.
31. Denver Broncos – Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State — After losing Wesley Woodyard to the Titans, the Broncos have a void to fill at LB. While it’s not a 1-to-1 swap–they are different players–Shazier would add some of the speed and coverage ability that they lost with the departure of Woodyard.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Louis Nix III, DT/NT, Notre Dame — The Seahawks find their big-bodied defensive tackle to replace Red Bryant. Nix should be able to step in Week 1 and be an effective run stopper.
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