08 May 2014

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Final Edition

We finally have made it, the 2014 NFL Draft. Yes, the later date has made the draft process struggle along but all of that is in the rear view mirror. The action starts tonight and with that, here is my final mock draft for 2014.

Note that I may be making edits as the day goes on so stay tuned in all day and into tonight.

1. Houston Texans - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Just stop with the Khalil Mack talk, Clowney is going first overall. Considering the lack of love for quarterbacks early in the draft, I think we are poised to see teams like Houston wait until the second day to address the position. And when you have somebody that is as sure-fire of a prospect as Clowney is, who should be a Pro Bowler at worst, that decision is made easier. The ability to pair J.J. Watt with a guy like Clowney would be far too tantalizing to pass up.

2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) - Greg Robinson, T, Auburn
I have had the Rams going with Khalil Mack the last month or so but now based on what I have been hearing, it looks like they are seriously considering Robinson. It makes sense, they could use more tackle help with Jake Long's injury issues and another tackle allows Rodger Saffold to move inside to guard. Robinson's stock has soared over the last several months and he looks like the best tackle in a strong class. He is a tremendous athlete and is pretty quick for such a big guy. He is a beast in the running game and has the skills to excel in the passing game as well. We like to call a guy like him a franchise left tackle.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
One of the more important positions in Gus Bradley's unique defensive scheme is the "Leo," whose sole responsibility is to apply pressure on the quarterback and is spread out from the other three linemen. Jacksonville lacked a lot of things, and they certainly lacked a pass rush and while they did bring in Chris Clemons from Seattle, they may very well pass up a quarterback to take a talent like Mack who will allow Bradley and defensive coordinator Bob Babich to employ an even greater variety of looks. Mack had an excellent 2013 that has helped to propel his draft stock. He is fast and strong and finds himself living in opposing backfields.

4. Cleveland Browns - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The great Jay Glazer has reported that Cleveland will not be taking the man I had previously mocked here, Johnny Manziel. He is tight with new Browns coach Mike Pettine, so that's meaningful. In that case, I think Cleveland does not go with a quarterback and instead goes with the best player on the board here in Watkins who can pair with Josh Gordon to form an elite receiving duo. Watkins is the best receiver prospect in a few years and with his all-around skill set, he looks to be a perennial Pro Bowler.

5. Oakland Raiders - Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
I previously had the Raiders selecting Watkins but with him being off the board, I think they will take the next best receiver and an elite prospect in his own right in Evans. It seems that Oakland is trying to gear up to win now and take a big step forward in 2014 and one way they can do that is by inserting an impact wideout into their lineup and Evans certainly fits the bill. Evans utilizes his size to his advantage as it helps him get open virtually every play. He is a tremendous leaper that can get to any throw and can be a threat in both the deep and intermediate passing game.

6. Atlanta Falcons - Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M
Any Falcons fan will tell you how much of a slouch left tackle Sam Baker is and while bringing in new offensive line coach Mike Tice should help, Atlanta may want to bring in some competition. Also, drafting a tackle would allow them to solidify the right tackle position as well as they did bring back Mike Johnson, but he can struggle to stay on the field due to injuries. Matthews may not be the elite athlete that Greg Robinson is but he is still a tremendous prospect that looks like a potential franchise blindside tackle.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
I think the only way that the Buccaneers take a quarterback is if the guy they love falls to them and he does here. Josh McCown was great in 2013 but he is not a long-term option, and the team has been shopping Mike Glennon. And they are so intrigued by Manziel that they have been rumored to try to trade up for him. I am not one of the skeptics of Manziel at the next level as I think he can be great in the pros. Sure, he may be a little small and have poor mechanics but his instincts are amazing, his playmaking ability is excellent and his passing skills are pretty good as well. The biggest questions with him are his maturity, but he is absolutely worth the shot in my opinion.

8. Minnesota Vikings - Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Previously I had projected the Vikings a couple of times to move up for the quarterback they want, but there is no need in this circumstance as Bortles is available at the eighth selection. There is no question that the Vikings are in need of a franchise quarterback as Christian Ponder is not the guy and Matt Cassel is a stop-gap option. Bortles has gained some steam as perhaps the top quarterback in his class and he has an impressive skill set with prototypical size with a strong arm as well as some mobility to pick up yards with his feet.

9. Buffalo Bills - Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan
Is tackle the biggest need for the Bills? No, but I think in a situation such as this where Matthews is available as this juncture, Buffalo will certainly be interested. The Bills do have a hole at right tackle and if they take a guy like Lewan, they could put him at left tackle and slide over Cordy Glenn to the right side, or put him on the right side. After all, they do have a big investment at quarterback in E.J. Manuel, and they need to keep him healthy.

10. Detroit Lions - Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA
Detroit is known for utilizing the best player available strategy and I think given that, that could leave them deciding in this circumstance between Barr, Justin Gilbert with a dark horse being Odell Beckham, Jr. I like Barr here and he would help fill multiple roles as the Lions, even after drafting Ezekiel Ansah a year ago, could use another pass rusher plus they have a need at the strongside linebacker position. Barr would give them a pass rushing force the like of which they have lacked from the linebacker position. He is a little raw but with his speed and athleticism rushing the passer off the edge, he could be a force. 

11. Tennessee Titans - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State 
Gilbert's stock is soaring after he looked like the best defensive back at the Combine. Gilbert is the kind of athlete you crave to have at cornerback and he has excellent ball skills to boot plus he is an above-average sized player for his position. He was a hell of a player in Stillwater. With Alterraun Verner signing with the Bucs, the Titans have a need at the cornerback position so why not take the best prospect at said position with this selection?

12. New York Giants - Zack Martin, G/T, Notre Dame
There is no question that the Giants need help along their offensive line, even after drafting Justin Pugh a year ago, as they struggled to protect Eli Manning and really struggled to run the ball. Left tackle could be an issue if they choose not play Pugh there as William Beatty, who was a mess, broke his leg in the finale. Now it looks like the Giants prefer Martin over Taylor Lewan and especially so in the wake of some off the field concerns for Lewan. Yes, he does not have long arms but he is very good in pass protection and at adjusting to pass rushers off the edge thanks to his good technigue. A lot of folks think he could be a better guard at the next level but he was be on the smaller side there.

13. StLouis Rams - Ha Ha Clinton-DixSAlabama
Dix is the kind of playmaker that teams love at free safety in that he is a good cover guy while also being able to attack in the running game as well. Sure he isn't a huge hitter, but he has the body to be one and is a good tackler. And boy could the Rams use a guy like him as they got atrocious play from both safety spots in 2013. Now the Rams had an underrated defense and continue to do so with an excellent pass rush and a talented line in general, but if you upgrade their safeties, look out.

14. Chicago Bears - Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The Bears need to do some work on their secondary after the meltdown they had down the stretch in 2013. The safety position in particular was a disaster and you do not need to remind Bears fans of Chris Conte's work against the Packers in the season finale. And the cornerbacks could use an infusion of youth as well. Fuller is not particularly fast but he is quick instead for a bigger cornerback. He also had to operate on an island with the Hokies, who always seem to pump out quality defensive backs, so he can be left out one-on-one in man coverage. He also could probably play safety too.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers - Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Pittsburgh is known for defense and while last year's unit was passable, poor performances against mediocre quarterbacks like Terrelle Pryor and Matt Flynn are why the team ultimately missed the playoffs (well and that botched referee job in San Diego in their finale). The secondary was far from stellar and the cornerbacks were a mess and the top wideouts had no issues finding room all season long. Dennard was awesome in 2013 and played a key role for an excellent Michigan State defense that led the Spartans to a Rose Bowl victory and he is a physical and fluid corner with the instincts to make plays on the ball.

16. Dallas Cowboys - Aaron DonaldDTPittsburgh
I am a big fan of this Pittsburgh tackle and I think he is also underrated due to his size, or lack thereof. Donald is a phenomenal athlete for a defensive tackle and takes advantage of it to be a dangerous pass rusher from the interior of the line, and he showcased that during a dominant 2013. He is also very strong and is hard to move at the point of attack. He will be a good fit for the Dallas defense, and will help to fill a big void at the defensive tackle position that was a complete mess in 2013.

17. Baltimore Ravens - Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
Did Joe Flacco miss Anquan Boldin last year? You betcha and while they spend more than expected to bring in Steve Smith, there is no question that his skills are on the decline. The team needs another weapon to pair with Torrey Smith for Flacco and I think they would be very intrigued if Beckham is available at 16. Beckham, whose stocked has soared over the past few months, is a speedy wideout that can excel in the slot at the next level. He is the kind of guy that is a threat to go the distance when he has the football in his hands and has some return upside.

18. New York Jets - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
New York desperately needs to find some weapons for whoever their quarterback will be. They gave a nice chunk of money to Eric Decker, who is a solid receiver but is not a no. 1 and certainly not one without Peyton Manning. Beyond Decker, there is not a whole lot there and there is something to be desired at tight end. From what I have heard, the Jets are intrigued by Ebron as he could give them a bit of a combo wideout/tight end. Ebron is an incredible athlete for a tight end and was the best tight end in college football in 2013. He is a future star in the passing game and he's also not a bad blocker either.

19. Miami Dolphins - Ju'Waun James, T, Tennessee
This is a tough spot for the Dolphins as the top offensive lineman in the draft are off the board by this point. However they may be inclined to reach on a guy like James who they appear to be high on should they choose to not move up as some have projected. They could use another offensive tackle even after signing Brandon Albert to a big contract, and James played the right side in college. James is an athletic tackle that can play a zone scheme and powerful enough to play in man. He looks best suited to play the right side but could also kick inside if needed.

20. Arizona Cardinals - Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
The Cardinals already have a talented playmaker at inside linebacker in Daryl Washington, but just a couple of weeks ago he was placed on probation for aggravated assault which was the latest in a string of incidents for him. Arizona has shown a lot of interest in Shazier and that could be potentially as a replacement for Washington, or simply to strengthen their linebacking corps. He was a fun player to watch during his time in Columbus. A fast linebacker with strong instincts, Shazier has bulked up a little to what was a slight frame and he is the kind of player that excels at finding the ball-carrier and has the skills to be a play-maker against the pass too.

21. Green Bay Packers - Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
It was pretty wild that the Packers, with all the problems they had with injuries, on defense and with Aaron Rodgers being out for a month, were able in the end to win the NFC North. That said, there is some work that needs to be done for the Packers to stay on top, particularly on defense. One weak spot was at safety which was a consistent and serious issue for the team all season long. Pryor is a big safety that has a nose for the football and covers plenty of ground on the field.

22. Philadelphia Eagles - Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
The Eagles appear to be breaking toward going with a receiver here with this selection, and they may even try to move up to take somebody like Odell Beckham. While Latimer would be a reach here, it appears to be lining up for him for the Eagles. First, the team has shown a ton of interest in the Indiana wideout. Second, he fits the kind of big and physical wideout that Chip Kelly wants for his offense. Latimer may not have the speed to be a vertical threat, but he is a physical wideout that can make contested catches with his good hands.

23. Kansas City Chiefs - Xavier Su'a Filo, G, UCLA
It looks like the Chiefs may be looking to address the interior of their offensive line, particularly the guard position, with the first selection. While I think they would ideally like to move back a couple spots to make this pick, Su'a Filo is the best guard in the draft and looks like a fit. Su'a-Filo is one of the more well-rounded blockers in this draft and is very good pass blocking. He should be one of those guys that steps right in and earns a starting job.

24. Cincinnati Bengals - Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Cincinnati's defense has been very good for several years and have been a key reason why they have been a playoff team in recent years. However, the team needs reinforcements at corner as Leon Hall has torn his Achilles now twice in the last few years and while Terrence Newman and Adam Jones have held up relatively well, that is not sustainable long-term. Roby is a gambler that takes a lot of chances but he is a speedy corner, he has good ball skills and can cover bigger wideouts as well. He has some character concerns but Cincinnati has traditionally taken risks on guys like this.

25. San Diego Chargers - Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
Remember Jamal Williams? It seems that since he left the Chargers in 2009, they have struggled to fill his position at nose tackle, a vital position, in their 3-4 defense and their current nose guy, Cam Thomas, is also a free agent. So that gives them doubly reasons to upgrade the spot and if Nix is available this late in the first, they should hurry to the podium on draft night. Nix showed in Indianapolis very good agility and athleticism in the field, a big plus for any big tackle. He will not rack up sacks, but he can push the pocket along with plugging rushing lanes.

26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis) - Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
There is no question that the Browns have to find themselves a franchise quarterback, the likes of which they have not had in their current incarnation, as Brandon Weeden was a mess and Brian Hoyer is not a long-term solution. Carr's stock fell with some inconsistent performance down the stretch and in Fresno's bowl game, but I do like him as a quarterback prospect. He has a strong arm that can make all the throws but the concern with him is that he can get flustered by a strong pass rush.

27. New Orleans Saints - C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Mosley would be a steal at 27 for the Saints in my opinion, as I thought he was when I had him going to Cleveland with the previous pick, as there are a number of teams that could take him in May. He is the kind of tackler and leader you love to have in the middle of your defense and he is very good at multiple aspects of the position while possessing few weakness. He is an excellent and ideal fit for the inside linebacker spot in a 3-4, like New Orleans runs. New Orleans also has issues at the inside linebacker spot. There you go.

28. Carolina Panthers - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Cam Newton took a big step forward in 2013 but to take another step forward, he will need improved play from his receiving corps as Steve Smith struggled to stay healthy late and Brandon Lafell was decent at best. Now with Smith being released and Lafell and Ted Ginn signing elsewhere, the Panthers are desperate for help at receiver. Now Cooks' stock is on the rise after a strong Combine performance as he showed plenty of speed at a 4.33 40 as well as strong hands and quality route running ability. He looks like a game-breaker.

29. New England Patriots - Ra'Shede Hageman, DT/DT, Minnesota
New England had to get key contributions from some lesser guys on their defensive line this year, especially after Vince Wilfork tore his Achilles tendon back earlier in the season. Therefore, look for them to address the spot in the draft with one of their earlier selections and a talent like Hageman, who was dominant at times for the Gophers this past season, may just be too much to pass up. He has shown some consistency issues but he is well-rounded prospect that can play multiple spots on the defensive line.

30. San Francisco 49ers - Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Cornerback is probably the biggest positional need for the Niners this offseason. They released Carlos Rogers and brought in the Vikings' Chris Cook to replace him but more reinforcements are needed. This draft has a number of talented cornerbacks for San Francisco to choose from early. Verrett needed to have a strong Combine performance to maintain some sort of a first round stock due to his lack of size, and he delivered. He ran a strong 40 as expected, had a strong vertical and broad jump and looked very good in the field drills. But for San Francisco, they may be on the move up for Odell Beckham so keep an eye out.

31. Denver Broncos - Koly Ealy, DE/OLB, Missouri
Denver did bring in DeMarcus Ware on a hearty deal to help juice up their pass rush but that does not mean that they could be finished in replacing Shaun Philips and Robert Ayers at the pass rusher spot, particularly if a guy like Ealy falls to them. Ealy has the skills to develop into a threat off the edge in the 3-4 or in the 4-3 and he was tremendous for the Tigers this past season. He is a nice package of size and speed for a pass rusher and can also play the run well as well.

32. Seattle Seahawks - Joel Bitonio, G/T, Nevada
The Seahawks may have won Super Bowl XLVIII in dominating fashion, but one position that left much to be desired all season long for the team was at guard. Both guard spots could use an upgrade particularly after Paul McQuistan signed with Cleveland (nor will he be missed either). Bitonio is versatile; he played tackle in college and could play tackle in the NFL but probably fits better at the guard. He's a balanced blocker that can protect the passer and pound in the run game.

For even more mocks, check out the mock draft database from Walter Football.

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