With the 2014 NFL Draft 20 days away, NFL team war rooms are beginning to create their first big boards and plans are now being finalized on who the top pick for each franchise will be.
Below is my newest mock draft with the Houston Texans deciding to go in a different direction and pair former South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with 2012 NFL AP Defensive Player Of The Year, J.J. Watt, to form a deadly one-two punch for years to come.
1. HOUSTON TEXANS (2-14) Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Texans may want to trade out of this spot, but having the number one overall pick could not hurt you. A team with three choices, the Texans could trade the pick, beginning a domino effect of many trades to come, pick the top pick of this year’s draft or just fill in the most pressing need at quarterback. The Texans desperately need a quarterback but looks like that they have not fell in love with anyone as of yet to be worthy of their first selection of the draft and they need help all around. They look at the best player of the entire class and go with Clowney.
2. ST. LOUIS RAMS (FROM WASHINGTON) (7-9) Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Rams can also go a few different directions and may also move to trade out of this pick. If they goes with their preferred choice of providing their quarterback, Sam Bradford, another solid target and the top in this class. Watkins is a fast and strong receiver that could become Bradford’s go-to player over time. But before addressing that need, they understand they need to give their beleaguered franchise quarterback some much-needed protection in tabbing Robinson–the top-rated offensive lineman in the class.
3. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (4-12) Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
The Jaguars have several needs and really need extra excitement on the field. A fresh and dynamic signal-caller that will bring crowds in. This is what Johnny Manziel brings to the Jaguars. He may not be the top quarterback in the class, but not selecting him could actually backfire on the Jaguars.
4. CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-12) Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Browns are another team that may be looking at a quarterback but they figure they have two picks in the first round and decide to select their future signal caller later in the round. Whoever is behind center next season in Cleveland will be provided a much-needed target across from Josh Gordon. And Watkins could be just the guy to help spark Cleveland’s vanilla offense.
5. OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-12) Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The Oakland Raiders got their quarterback in free agency in Matt Schaub, so they now can focus on that in a later round. For the Raiders, it is time to focus on future components of placing all the pieces together for the future. With the top wideout in Watkins off the board, they decide to grab the best player on the board in Khahil Mack who will fit in alongside Lamarr Woodley and Nick Roach. The Raiders are another team that might trade down since they only have four picks in the first six rounds.
6. ATLANTA FALCONS (4-12) Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Matt Ryan did not have the best year last season, and it was greatly do to the lack of protection. The Falcons must address that need. With selecting Matthews, that fills a big gap on Ryan’s blind side and give the former 2008 top overall pick out of Boston College some much-needed security. Matthews is a solid lineman who will be on their line for a good 10-15 years.
7. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (4-12) Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
After trading Mike Williams to Buffalo, Tampa Bay needs to find a quality wideout to not only replace Williams, but also slot across from Vincent Jackson. Mike Evans is a solid–and big–receiver that may fir the bill.
8.MINNESOTA VIKINGS (5-10-1) Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Christian Ponder’s days are numbered and Matt Cassel a safety button, the Vikings need a quarterback of the future. Despite Manziel’s size he is the top quarterback in this year’s draft and has the ability to find a way to win and only wants to improve. Bortles fits the need immediately, while he may not be the best pick in the draft, the Vikings will not regret taking him.
9. BUFFALO BILLS (6-10) Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
After giving up a draft pick for newly acquired wideout, Mike Williams, look for Buffalo to focus on defense in the first round. The Bills need a pass rusher that can come off the edge and get to the quarterback. Barr has an ideal athletic body and is a beast on defense and has a special way of getting to the ball carrier.
10. DETROIT LIONS (7-9) Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma St.
The Lions need to add more youth to their defensive back field. The secondary last season was horrendous and aging. The team did sign safety James Ihedigbo, but it’s time to place some strength and speed at the corners so the Lions focus on this in the draft by adding Gilbert. In adding the youth to the mix, Gilbert is at top of his class at his position. He has outstanding size-speed ratio and athletic ability that will fit well against the top receivers in the NFL.
11. TENNESSEE TITANS (7-9) C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
With the Titans moving to a 3-4 defense, Tennessee needs a pass rusher who can start right away and get to the quarterback. Last season they were one of the teams with the fewest sacks in the NFL. Mosley played on a NFL-loaded Alabama team and will come into the league with a high football IQ, as he is very explosive and plays with an excellent knee bend, balance and base.
12. NY GIANTS (7-9) Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Last season, the Giants offensive line struggled. From injuries to both offensive tackles to simple inconsistency, it was a mess and Eli Manning struggled from the lack of protection. Lewan may be the most athletic offensive lineman in this year’s draft, but due to their need, he is the smartest pick of the draft for any team, especially the Giants.
13. ST. LOUIS RAMS (7-9) Hasean Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
Thanks to horrendous play in the secondary, St. Louis needs an upgrade at the safety position; Rodney McLeod was one of the worst starting safeties in the NFL this past season. T.J. McDonald wasn’t the greatest either, but has some potential being that last season was his rookie year. Clinton-Dix has great speed and flexibility to match up with wide-receivers and tight ends in the NFL.
14. CHICAGO BEARS (8-8) Darquize Dennard, CB, Michigan State
During free agency, the Bears managed to lose starting defensive tackle Henry Melton to the Cowboys but picked up former Oakland defensive tackle LaMarr Houston also signed Jared Allen from the NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings. The Bears defense still has another major hole to repair–and that’s in its own secondary. Dennard is a solid upgrade and places some youth in an aging Chicago secondary.
15. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-8) Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Steelers had major issues in stopping the run last year, as they didn’t seem like the Steelers of old. Their once-proud and feared “Blitzburgh” defense is aging upfront, so now it’s time for some new blood. Donald is the top defensive tackle in this year’s draft and will learn from some of the greats around him to become even better.
16. DALLAS COWBOYS (8-8) Kony Ealy DE, Missouri
The loss of defensive end DeMarcus Ware in free agency to the Denver Broncos hurt the Cowboys, who now need to fill in the missing gap off the edge. Ealy is an explosive playmaker who has a good combination of pass-rushing and run-stop abilities.
17. BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-8) Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The Ravens offensive line fell in the proverbial sea last season. First in losing promising guard Kelechi Osemele to a year-ending back injury, was not only unexpected but costly. Baltimore also re-signed Eugene Monroe but lost Michael Oher to the Titans. Martin will fit right in where Oher left off and is flexible of his feet with great blocking skills to seal running lanes.
18. NY JETS (8-8) Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California
Despite adding Eric Decker and Chris Johnson in free agency, the New York Jets need another solid target for Geno Smith/Michael Vick. Lee will help fill the void of the departed Santonio Holmes and give the Jets offense with a solid weapon that was missed last season.
19. MIAMI DOLPHINS (8-8) Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA
Miami suffered last season with all the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito media craziness surrounding their offensive line off the field. Now with both gone, it’s time for the Dolphins to shore up the offensive line and start fresh and by selecting the best offensive lineman available on the board.
20. ARIZONA CARDINALS (10-6) Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
The Cardinals need a hard-hitting safety, and the former Louisvile Cardinal fits the bill. Pryor has both the skills and talent to jump right in to the defense and boost their defensive backfield from the start. Pryor is a lights-out hitter with incredible instincts and will excel well in the NFL.
21. GREEN BAY PACKERS (8-7-1) Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Packers need a replacement for former star tight end Jermichael Finley. Green Bay makes a quick decision to fill in the gap and give quarterback Aaron Rodgers with a big target in Ebron who is both agile and dangerous after the catch and creates quick cuts to make defenders miss. Ebron may need to develop his blocking skills at the next level, but he is the top tight end in his class and has the potential to be an impact player immediately.
22. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-6) Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
While the Philadelphia Eagles needing a new wide receiver after releasing of DeSean Jackson, this is a deep class in which they can easily select a talented one in the future. The team also has another major weakness and that is in their linebacker core. Shazier gives them an outside linebacker with speed and good coverage skills. The Eagles’ defense didn’t seem balanced at time last season, but will be better in 2014.
23. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-5) Odell Beckham Jr., WR LSU
In free agency, the Chiefs failed to land a top wide receiver and need one to play opposite of Dwayne Bowe to offer Alex Smith another target downfield. Beckham Jr, has tremendous speed and good acceleration. In the NFL, he will use his solid footwork, timing and depth in his routes to create separation and catch the ball between defenders.
24. CINCINNATI BENGALS (11-5) Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
The Cincinnati Bengals must replace Michael Johnson at defensive end, and in tabbing Ford, the Bengals select the best player on the board at that position. Ford is a top-level edge rusher that coaches love to have and they can use in multiple ways to get to the ball carrier.
25. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (9-7) Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Chargers need to improve in the corner back position as they had a few deficiencies in their secondary last season. Verrett is exactly what the Chargers need to strengthen their depleted secondary.
26. CLEVELAND BROWNS (FROM INDIANAPOLIS) (4-12) Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
With a new coaching staff in place they may decide to select Manziel earlier, but he appears not to be their guy. IN being the latest top-rated prospect in recent years to drop, Cleveland pounces on the former top-rated propsect in the draft and lands the former Louisville Cardinal signal caller. With Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron and Sammy Watkins, the Browns give either Brian Hoyer or Bridgewater three outstanding young targets this will open the opportunity for Bridgewater to succeed.
27. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-5) Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
In losing Lance Moore to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Saints draft a younger and faster replacement in former Oregon State wideout Brandin Cooks. In Cooks, he will provide another target for Drew Brees, as he is light on his feet with terrific balance. He sinks with his hips with ease and pops out of breaks to separate well from defenders. Cooks set single-season Pac-12 records with 1,730 receiving yards and 128 receptions.
28. CAROLINA PANTHERS (12-4) Cyrus Kouandjio OT, Alabama
Jordan Gross has retired, so the Panthers cannot wait any longer they need to fill in the gap in the offensive line to protect Cam Newton. They get the best available o-lineman on the board though Su’a Filo is a guard, but he has the ability to shift to tackle if need be.
29. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-4) RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
If the Patriots lacked something last season it was their lack of a pass rush. The Patriots ranked 30th in run defense, the defensive tackle depth chart is plagued with question marks. With two aging veterans in Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilford, the Pats got pushed around up front for most of last year. Hageman is a big, athletic and fit three-technique player, with intriguing dimensions and movement skills.
30. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (12-4) Kelvin Benjamin WR, FSU
With Manningham back east in New York to the Giants in free agency, the need to add another receiver across from Michael Crabtree is the step in the right direction and re-signing Anquan Boldin fixing a small gap on the receiving core. At 6’5 and 243 pounds, Benjamin looks more like a tight end than a wide receiver, as he has an enormously large wingspan, giving him the catching radius that is probably on par with anyone at the NFL.
31. DENVER BRONCOS (13-3) Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
After suffering a humiliating loss in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Denver Broncos highlighted their free agency period in signing top solid veteran performers in T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib and DeMarcus Ware to help fill in the noticeable holes on defense but they failed to respond to fixing adding more depth to the cornerback spot. IN selecting Roby, the Broncos add another top-flight defender in the secondary.
32. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (13-3) Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Super Bowl Champs, may have no desperate need or hole to fill and may try to trade this pick out of the first round with a team without a first round draft pick or team that wants to move up to draft quarterback David Carr. If Seattle does decide to pick they look to provide Russell Wilson with a weapon that was opened with the loss to Ben Tate in free agency. But they decide to get a long-term replacement for Red Bryant on the defensive line.
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