We’re just eight days away from the 2014 first round kicking off, and there’s still so much we don’t know about how the 2014 draft will shake out.
Uncertainty lingers in what the Texans will do atop the draft, where the quarterbacks will land and who will be the surprise players to leap into round one. In the second-to-last mock of the 2014 draft, this is my best two-round effort in projecting how the early part of the draft will shake out.
1. Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
-A trade is certainly likely with either Atlanta or Jacksonville, but the Texans won’t give up Clowney without getting a great return. In the end, the Texans could just stand to keep the best player in the draft and add to their defense.
2. St. Louis Rams – Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
-This pick seems like a consensus, as the Rams (and multiple NFL teams) view Robinson as only a small step down from Clowney as a prospect. They could slide Robinson at left guard for a year before moving on from Jake Long, or have him battle for the right tackle spot as a rookie.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
-I’ve heard the Jaguars have Sammy Watkins higher on their board for now, but personally, I think Mack makes a lot more sense. The concern over whether Justin Blackmon will be with the team in the future is why Watkins fits, but Mack is an ideal LEO for Gus Bradley’s defense.
4. Cleveland Browns – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
-Johnny Manziel is most frequently linked to the Browns, and I agree with it. But I’m not sure if the interest among other top-20 teams when it comes to Manziel is a lock, and the Browns could look to add Watkins and aim for Manziel or another quarterback in the late first round.
5. San Francisco 49ers (via OAK) – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
-The rumors of the 49ers interest in trading up is legitimate, and for a Raiders team looking to add as many picks in this draft as they can to find more instant contributors, this is a fit. The 49ers want one of the premier players in this draft, and adding Evans to this offense could give Kaepernick even more firepower on offense.
6. Atlanta Falcons – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
-If the Falcons don’t move up for Jadeveon Clowney, they’ll likely sit at 6th overall and take the best offensive tackle available. Matthews has the versatility to play left or right tackle, and could slide in at guard for the Falcons if need be.
7. Tampa Bay Bucs – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
-While rumors of Johnny Manziel persist, I don’t buy it for now. Instead, I think Lovie Smith would love to add to his offensive line, giving his free agent signing Josh McCown more protection. Receiver (especially if Mike Evans is here) is a strong possibility.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
-Dennard has taken a beating in the scouting media in recent weeks, but I know of multiple teams that still have him viewed as the draft’s best cornerback. The Vikings wouldn’t mind trading down to secure more value, but Dennard seems like the fit if Mike Evans and Khalil Mack are unattainable.
9. Buffalo Bills – Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
-With Kyle Williams, 3-technique isn’t a huge need for the Bills. But they’d like to improve their pass rush, and with Jim Schwartz in charge of the defense, he’ll find a way to utilize Aaron Donald at a high level at a variety of spots.
10. Detroit Lions – HaHa Clinton-Dix, SAF, Alabama
-The Lions have plenty of young cornerbacks to develop, but they lack young, starter-level talent at safety. The best safety in the class should be theirs for the taking at 10th overall, and Clinton-Dix can step in as a starter Day 1.
11. Tennessee Titans – Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
-Cornerback appears to be a bigger need in my opinion, but I’ve heard that adding a talented pass rusher to Ray Horton’s defense seems to be the bigger focus. Barr is an elite athlete with an upside that’s higher than Khalil Mack.
12. New York Giants – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
-The Giants will have plenty of options at the 12th pick if they can’t move up for Aaron Donald. Finding an offensive piece seems like the biggest need, where Ebron or a receiver fits best. Don’t rule out Ra’Shede Hageman either.
13. St. Louis Rams – Odell Beckham Jr, WR, LSU
-Even though they added Tavon Austin in last year’s draft, the Rams still need offensive weapons if they want to give Sam Bradford a fighting chance in the brutal NFC West. Beckham can add another dynamic threat to the Rams offense.
14. Chicago Bears – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
-The Bears could look at every level of the defense with their first pick, but finding an impact cornerback to provide some youth at the position seems like a must. Fuller is the favorite to be the pick, though DT Ra’Shede Hageman has been linked as well.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
-Pittsburgh loves taking the best athlete/talent on the board, and with needs along the defensive line, Ra’Shede Hageman seems like the ideal fit if he’s on the board. If he’s not, Justin Gilbert seems like the best fit.
16. Dallas Cowboys – Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
-Dallas needs to add to their defensive line, a weakness last year that got worse when they let DeMarcus Ware go. Ealy can play inside and out on this defensive line and provide a spark to this needy pass-rushing unit.
17. Baltimore Ravens – Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
-While they could go safety or defensive line, but finding a right tackle is a key for a team in desperate need of offensive line help. I’m not a huge fan of Moses, but he’s NFL ready and has experience at right tackle.
18. New York Jets – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
-The Jets need more playmakers on offense, and while they’ll consider cornerback (Jason Verrett a strong option here), Brandin Cooks is linked to New York and should provide a vertical threat for Geno Smith, who utilized playmakers like Cooks in college (Tavon Austin/Stedman Bailey at West Virginia).
19. Miami Dolphins – Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
-Miami needs offensive line help worse than any other team in the NFL, and finding a right tackle/guard help at this spot would be wise. Martin can fill either role as a rookie in Miami. Linebacker is an option as well.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
-The Cardinals need to find Carson Palmer’s long term replacement, and Derek Carr is an ideal fit for Bruce Arians vertical offense. They could look cornerback or pass rusher if they pass on Carr.
21. Green Bay Packers – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
-Green Bay has talent in its defensive backfield, but still would love to add the ultra-talented Gilbert to the secondary. Gilbert won’t be rushed to start, and fits what Green Bay wants in their corners.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
-The character issues related to Roby may make him not an option for the Eagles with Chip Kelly at the helm. But Kelly loves speed on both sides of the ball, and Roby is the fastest cornerback in this class. He could develop into an impact starter opposite Brandon Boykin.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Marqise Lee, WR, USC
-The Chiefs could look at a variety of options on defense, but if Marqise Lee is available, adding him to a receiver unit that, after Dwayne Bowe, is lackluster would be a big win for Alex Smith and this offense.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
-Ryan Shazier has a chance to go as high as 13th overall, but his best fit is still staying in-state with the Bengals. Cincinnati will likely take the best player available, and Shazier fits that bill at this point in the draft.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (via SD) – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
-It’s never easy to predict second round trade ups, but I can’t see Bridgewater falling out of the first round. The Jaguars are a perfect fit still, and if they don’t take him in the top-10, I’m sure they’ll target him if he slides this far.
26. Cleveland Browns (via IND) – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
-The Browns are linked to take Manziel in the top five for now, but I still think it’s a real possibility that he could fall on draft day, to the delight of the Browns if they’re patient. If they take Manziel at 4, cornerback and receiver are the likely options here.
27. New Orleans Saints – Demarcus Lawrence, OLB, Boise State
-The Saints need to add a pass rusher, as they can’t enter next year with the depth chart they boast now. Demarcus Lawrence has been a hot name recently, and I wouldn’t rule out him emerging as a first rounder.
28. Carolina Panthers – Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
-Carolina has three glaring needs: offensive tackle, receiver and cornerback. In my opinion, cornerback is their biggest and most difficult-to-fill need, and Verrett is the best player on the board. Sleeper pick here is Pierre Desir of Lindenwood, if Verrett and Bradley Roby are off the board.
29. Houston Texans (via NE) – Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
-The Texans and Vikings have been most linked to Bortles, but for a developmental quarterback, he may not be deemed worthy of taking in the top-10. The Texans could be the ones who bite first, as O’Brien trades with his former employer in New England to secure his franchise quarterback.
30. Oakland Raiders (via SF) – Jeremiah Attaochu, DE, Georgia Tech
-If the Raiders move down, they’ll be targeting instant-impact players on both sides of the ball. Attaochu could be a target of theirs, as he can provide depth behind free agent signings Justin Tuck and Lamar Woodley.
31. Denver Broncos – Jimmie Ward, SAF, Northern Illinois
-If one of the top cornerbacks is available, Denver will likely pounce. But if they’re gone, they Broncos will likely target a defender who can fill multiple roles and contribute immediately. Ward can be a strong safety, a third safety and a nickel cornerback for Denver.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA
-The Seahawks don’t have any glaring needs, but adding to their offensive line would be a safe bet if there’s a top talent available. Su’a-Filo is the draft’s best guard, but could play right tackle if need be.
33. New England (via HOU) – Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
34. Washington – Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
35. Cleveland – Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
36. Oakland – Calvin Pryor, SAF, Louisville
37. Atlanta – Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
38. Tampa Bay – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
39. San Diego (via JAC) – Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
40. Minnesota – Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
41. Buffalo – Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
42. Tennessee – Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
43. New York Giants – CJ Mosely, ILB, Alabama
44. St. Louis – AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
45. Detroit – Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
46. Pittsburgh – Bashaun Breeland, CB, Clemson
47. Dallas – Joel Bitonio, OG/OT, Nevada
48. Baltimore – Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
49. New York Jets – Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn
50. Miami – Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
51. Chicago – Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
52. Arizona – Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina
53. Green Bay – Jace Amaro, TE, Green Bay
54. Philadelphia – Marcus Smith, DE/OLB, Louisville
55. Cincinnati – Weston Richburg, OC, Colorado State
56. Oakland (via SF) – Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
57. San Diego – Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
58. New Orleans – Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
59. Indianapolis – Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
60. Carolina – Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
61. San Francisco – Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
62. New England – Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
63. Denver – Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
64. Seattle – Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska