It's about time! The NFL Draft was pushed back a few weeks this off-season and you can really tell. It seems as if the analyzing and criticizing of these college prospects has been going on forever. Draft day is upon us though! With one of the deepest draft pools to date, the 2014 NFL Draft could have us in store for some absolutely chaos. There is no player on the board with the "no doubt superstar" qualities (only because of Clowney's work ethic concerns), which makes every pick up for grabs. In this post, I will give you my 1st round mock draft, without taking into account any trades. However, come 8 PM, I do believe there will be at least 3 trades, possibly more that go down, with 2 coming in the top 15.
1. Houston Texans - DE - Jadeveon Clowney - South Carolina
If you ask me, this is a no-brainer under one condition. You don't take Johnny Manziel. Clowney has the athleticism and skill set to be an all-time great. If he gets the right motivation and mindset, the sky is the limit for this kid. Since the day he came out of high school, scouts have waited for the day that he would get picked number 1 and May 8, 2014 is that day. The Texans D-Line becomes the most feared in football with Clowney on one side and All-Pro J.J. Watt on the other.
2. St. Louis Rams - OL - Greg Robinson - Auburn
It's not sexy. It's not out of the box. But it is the thing that needs to be done in St. Louis. The biggest issue of the Sam Bradford Era has been protecting #8. This gives them a huge plus in that area has Robinson is the best lineman in the draft. They get Jake Long back who missed most of last year, his first with the Rams, and him coupled with Robinson could anchor a solid front 5. They could go a multitude of ways with this pick. If the Rams do not trade (which in the end, I think they do), they will select Robinson, unless somehow Clowney is on the board.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars - LB - Khalil Mack - Buffalo
The first three picks will go by and a skill position player will not be taken. Sammy Watkins seems like a viable option with his big play ability and the uncertainty of Justin Blackmon's future. However, defense is what is winning in today's NFL and Khalil Mack may be the most polished player of the group. He can come in a start right away and the coaching staff won't have to worry about him. There are no character concerns; he just goes out and plays. Mack gives the MAC a top 3 pick back to back years.
4. Cleveland Browns - WR - Sammy Watkins - Clemson
The Cleveland Browns have 11 picks in the first two days of the draft. They have lacked consistency since rejoining the league 15 years ago. This draft has the potential to be the one that takes them to the next level, much like the 2011 draft did for their in state and division rival Cincinnati Bengals. I believe the Browns will follow the Bengals lead by taking a WR with the number 4 pick. Sammy Watkins is no A.J. Green, but his big play ability is unquestioned and pairing him opposite of Josh Gordon is scary for opposing defenses if they get the signal caller to throw it to them.
5. Oakland Raiders - OL - Jake Matthews - Texas A&M
Some will be surprised that the man whose job to protect Johnny Football will get called before Johnny Football himself. But that will be exactly what happens come tonight when the Raiders take Jake Matthews with the 5th pick. We know the Raiders front office would love to see Sammy Watkins fall as he fits the Oakland prototype at Wide Receiver, but they will settle for the best available player on the board in Matthews.
6. Atlanta Falcons - OL - Taylor Lewan - Michigan
Atlanta has a talented roster. They won the division in 2012 and had a multitude of injuries that led to the collapse that was 2013. They should have a healthy receiving corps for the first time since '12 in Roddy White and Julio Jones, that combined with Matt Ryan leaves the Falcons options open. Although the Falcons would love to add a pass rusher with this pick, Clowney and Mack are off the board so they head to the other side of the line and take the best lineman available, Taylor Lewan. After a stellar junior season, Lewan struggled some in 2013, but his rare combination of athleticism and strength is not something to be ignored.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - QB - Johnny Manziel - Texas A&M
Here it is. The pick everyone cannot wait to see. Johnny Manziel will end up in Tampa Bay in the Pewter and Red playing for Lovie Smith and the Buccaneers. Smith will want to make a splash in his first off-season as head ball coach and it has been evident that they do not believe Mike Glennon is the answer. They did sign Josh McCown, Smith's former backup in Chicago, which is exactly what he will be in Tampa. McCown can help Johnny Football emerge onto the seen and become a superstar at the next level. Sometimes, the best mentors aren't best players.
8. Minnesota Vikings - DL - Aaron Donald - Pittsburgh
The Vikings have so many holes that there could be any number of players taken in this spot. They could go with Barr, Mosley, Gilbert, or Denard and no one would blink an eye. They could even take Bortles, their top ranked QB. However, first year Head Coach Mike Zimmer loves having a dominant front line. Geno Atkins made Zimmer's job much easier in Cincinnati and Aaron Donald can be a Geno Atkins type of player. He has all the ability in the world and who better to coach him than Mr. Zimmer himself. This pick makes perfect sense!
9. Buffalo Bills - OL - Zack Martin - Notre Dame
E.J. Manuel could not stay healthy in his rookie campaign. The one way to help alleviate some of those issues is to draft a big boy up front to help protect them. The Bills top choices of Matthews and Lewan will both be gone which does make the spot a tougher one. Martin could be considered a stretch here, which is why I wouldn't be surprised to see Mike Evans or Eric Ebron go off the board to Buffalo. However, they have some young talent on the outside, so in the end, I do think they will bolster their inside and take the OL Zack Martin.
10. Detroit Lions - WR - Mike Evans - Texas A&M
This may be the fastest pick made of the night. There are reports that the Lions have serious interest in trading up for Watkins, so barring that does not happen, Mike Evans falling to them at 10 is an absolute no brainer. They get their big play receiver opposite of Calvin Johnson to make this passing offense even better. Taking a defensive player would make a lot of sense as well as that is the true weakness in Detroit, but Evans here is too good to pass up.
11. Tennessee Titans - LB - Anthony Barr - UCLA
A year ago, Anthony Barr was in consideration for the top overall pick. His stock has dropped since then, but the talent is still off the roof. At 6'5" Barr is a physical freak that can make plays all over the field. The Titans need just that. The defense struggled mightily last season and Barr should be able to come in and start day 1 to bolster the unit. They have options with all of the cornerbacks still on the board, but I believe Barr ends up in Tennessee.
12. New York Giants - S - Ha Ha Clinton Dix - Alabama
Taking a defender from Alabama is never a bad option, although not all of them have proven to be successful (Dre Kirkpatrick anyone?). I do not think that will be the case with Clinton-Dix though. He is a consensus number 1 safety that could sneak into the top 10 or fall into the mid-20s. His stock is all over place, similar to how he is on the field. The Giants need play makers in the secondary and Ha Ha gives them one.
13. St. Louis Rams - S - Calvin Pryor - Louisville
The Rams make it two safeties in a row with their second pick of the first round. Calvin Pryor has almost gotten to be 1a with Clinton-Dix as the process as wound on. He is another playmaker in the secondary that could be crucial for St. Louis. The Rams know that to win in the NFC West, you must have a great defense, and Pryor makes that unit better from day 1. They could go with a corner or even a wide receiver in this spot to help Bradford, but defense is the key to victories in today's NFL and this isn't Jeff Fisher's first rodeo.
14. Chicago Bears - CB - Justin Gilbert - Oklahoma St.
There is no real clear cut number one cornerback in this years class. There are 4 or 5 that could end up going on Thursday in any sort of order. I believe the most athletic of the bunch ends up going first and that is Justin Gilbert. While Denard is a dominate, physical corner, Justin Gilbert is never going to get beat. He has top end speed and applicable size. His combine performance put him in this consideration and the Bears need a younger secondary with some of the aging going on. Gilbert is a tremendous value at 14.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers - TE - Eric Ebron - North Carolina
It seems as if every team is looking for this new breed of tight ends taking over the league. Rob Gronkowski started it and Jimmy Graham is taking it to new heights. The Steelers passed on Tyler Eifert a year ago, but they will not make that mistake again. Roethlisberger never seemed to get into a rhythm last season without Heath Miller. The Steeler great is injury prone and retirement is sure to come soon. The Steelers can grab is replacement with TE/WR Eric Ebron. Ebron has the ability to go outside and act as another receiver which is a match up nightmare. Big Ben gets another security blanket, but this one has big play ability.
16. Dallas Cowboys - DL - Timmy Jernigan - Florida St.
This is about worst case scenario for Jerry Jones and company, which is why there is a good chance they made try to trade up. Barr, Clinton-Dix, Pryor, and Donald are all off the board by 16, which leaves them with the next best player at their biggest need. Dallas would love to be able to get Aaron Donald, but no way he drops below 13, so the Cowboys will settle for Timmy Jernigan. Jernigan can stuff up holes, but he also comes with character questions. He had a diluted sample at the combine, which usually means a failed drug test. That won't stop Jerry though. He wants the player that can make the biggest impact and at this spot, Jernigan is the answer.
17. Baltimore Ravens - LB - CJ Mosely - Alabama
The second Alabama defender comes off the board here at 17 with the Ravens pick of CJ Mosely. Baltimore loves their defenders and they can never use enough of them. Mosely is a talented LB that can play right away to help get the Ravens back to the top of the AFC North. They could also use this pick to help out Joe Flacco's receiving core with Odell Beckham, even though Steve Smith was signed. Baltimore does love to trade down as well, so don't be surprised if they do that.
18. New York Jets - WR - Odell Beckham - LSU
The Jets faithful will boo the rest of the night if they don't pick a wide receiver to help Geno Smith or Michael Vick. The Eric Decker signing is a good one, but you need more than one in this league. Beckham makes all kind of sense with his versatility and speed. He has the potential to be a key contributor for a long time in this league if things go right.
19. Miami Dolphins - OL - Xavier Su'a Filo - UCLA
Given the tumultuous events that occurred in South Beach last season, it is evident that the Dolphins need a offensive lineman. They won't get one the top ones picking at 19, but Su'a Filo is no stretch here. He has the ability to start right away, especially on this team. It seemed as if Ryan Tannehill was lying on his back more than standing up right and Su'a Filo will help those issues out right away.
20. Arizona Cardinals - QB - Blake Bortles - UCF
Most teams picking for the first time in the 20s do not consider QBs because it means the team was either in the playoffs, or in the Cardinals case, 1 game out. However, Carson Palmer is not getting any younger and his arm isn't getting any stronger. While his career was somewhat revived with Larry Fitzgerald a year ago, Blake Bortles here makes perfect sense. Bortles has been linked to Arizona for a while now and he can sit an entire year behind Palmer just as he did in Cincinnati his rookie season.
21. Green Bay Packers - LB - Ryan Shazier - Ohio State
The Green Bay defense needs help, and one of the more polished linebackers in the class is Ryan Shazier. While he doesn't have the measurables of the other players in the draft, he is a flat out play maker. You know he was well-coached at Ohio State, and remember the last time Green Bay took a Buckeye linebacker in the first round? I think it turned out okay.
22. Philadelphia Eagles - CB - Kyle Fuller - Virginia Tech
The Eagles fan base wants a wide receiver after cutting ties with Pro-bowler DeSean Jackson this off season. However, they do get Jeremy Maclin back from injury and there is no real surefire playmaker left to take a first round pick on at WR. Kyle Fuller, though, can improve this porous secondary right away. This pick could also be Jason Verrett, or Darqueze Denard, depending on who is their highest rated.
23. Kansas City Chiefs - WR - Brandin Cooks - Oregon St.
The Chiefs made the biggest jump of any team going from 2 wins to the playoffs. Alex Smith continued his efficient play that he ended his San Francisco career with, which was a big reason for the massive improvement. Smith could use another weapon on the outside though. The Dexter McCluster experiment hasn't gone so well, which is why Brandin Cooks make a lot of sense. The perfect slot receiver for this west coast style offense, that can get the ball quickly from Smith and make plays in the open field.
24. Cincinnati Bengals - CB - Darqueze Denard - Michigan St.
This has to be the ideal situation for the Bengals. Rated as the top corner on some boards, Denard has shut down corner ability. The Cincinnati secondary is aging quickly with the likes of Terrence Newman and Adam Jones. Leon Hall is coming off his second achilles injury and Dre Kirkpatrick has flopped on his face. Denard can come in and learn from the vets before taking over reins a season from now. If Paul Guenther is anything like his mentor Mike Zimmer, he'll love to add depth to his secondary.
25. San Diego Chargers - CB - Jason Verrett - TCU
The Chargers have plenty of options here with the 25th pick. They have needs at CB, DL, and WR that can all be filled with viable options. However, cornerback seems to be the thinest of this class which explains this pick. The WR class is as deep as ever, and defensive lineman can be found later. After the first 4 or 5 corners though, the talent level plummets. Jason Verrett may be undersized, but he is talented.
26. Cleveland Browns - QB - Derek Carr - Fresno St.
If Manziel or Bortles is not the pick at number 4, a quarterback will be headed to Cleveland with the 26th pick. Cleveland is in dire need of a franchise QB, and has been for the last 15 years. They have attempted many times with Couch, Quinn, and Weeden to name a few. None of them are any good. Simple as that. It was clear last season that this team may be a QB away from contending for a division title. While Teddy Bridgewater is still on the board, Derek Carr has been linked to the Browns. He has the best arm of anyone in the draft and if it wasn't for the failures of his older brother, it may be him going number 1 this year.
27. New Orleans Saints - CB - Bradley Roby - Ohio State
Bradley Roby has talent, and lots of it. He also have character concerns, and lots of them. This, combined with a poor senior season is the reasons for his drop. If he would have entered the draft a season ago, he may have gone in the top 15. But he stayed, got into trouble, and had a worse senior season than he did junior. This does not keep him out of the first round though. The Saints defense made enormous strides under Rob Ryan and that will continue in year 2.
28. Carolina Panthers - WR - Marquise Lee - USC
Cam Newton needs receivers and needs them badly. In fact, there is only one receiver on the team that has more receptions than Cam himself. And with the signing of DB Roman Harper, he has more receptions (interceptions) from QBs than the Carolina receivers combined. That is one big problem. Carolina waste no time helping Superman by taking Marquise Lee. The ceiling is high, and now he will have opportunities galore to make it happen.
29. New England Patriots - TE - Jake Amaro - Texas Tech
What are the chances that New England actually makes this pick? Probably slim to none. BUT, if Belichek decides to keep the pick, his options are down to three guys. Jake Amaro, DL Ra'shade Hageman or Louis Nix. Nix has the big body like aging Vince Wilfork. Hageman is probably the most talented. But in the end, Wilfork was brought back and Belichek loves two TE sets. Jake Amaro can bring those days back being paired with Gronk (if he is even healthy). This fills a hole nicely for the Patriots.
30. San Francisco 49ers - WR - Cody Latimer - Indiana
This is another pick that I believe that will probably not be made by the team slotted to begin the night. The 49ers are trying hard to trade up and will most likely be successful at some point. If they do make this pick though, I think Jim Harbaugh adds another weapon for Colin Kaepernick. They missed greatly on big play threat AJ Jenkins a few years ago and they will try again with raw talented Cody Latimer. Arrived in Bloomington as a basketball player, he has elite athleticism that could make him special.
31. Denver Broncos - DL - Ra'shede Hageman - Minnesota
It was evident on the biggest stage of the NFL that the Broncos must improve their defense to win a championship. They attempted to fix some holes in free agency with Demarcus Ware and TJ Ward. They can't go wrong picking any position on the defensive side of the ball. If one of the cornerbacks fall to Denver, I could see them going that way, but in this case Hageman is the top available player and an easy selection for the Broncos.
32. Seattle Seahawks - OL - Joel Bitonio - Nevada
When you have a roster that Seattle does and put on the performances they did this past season, you pick the best player available when it's your turn. Offensive line is a position where you can never have enough depth due to frequency of injuries. Bitonio, a Nevada prospect, is a strong, under the radar prospect who has lots of talent. Seattle could also go WR if they feel the fit is right.
QB - Teddy Bridgewater - Louisville
Although he is not included in my first round mock, Bridgewater will get selected tonight. Some team, (JAC, HOU, TEN, OAK) will trade up into the back end of the first round to select him. He is the most NFL ready QB of the bunch that was downgraded due to a putrid pro day.
The NFL Draft is almost impossible to predict, especially in one like this year with the depth of talent, but lack of elite talent. There are players that could go top 10, but also fall out of the first round. This should make for an exciting night!