2014 NFL Mock Draft: Projecting Entire 1st Round With Likely Trades
Projecting Entire 1st Round With Likely Trades
The fact that the on-field activities of the NFL Scouting Combine begin on Saturday, Feb. 22 means that discussion about the 2014 NFL Draft is ready to kick into high gear sooner rather than later. This inevitably means mock drafts will be coming out in droves with many anxious to project what collegiate stars will land in which NFL cities and try to help those franchises reach their desired goals.
While some of these prognostications will just take the draft order as-is and let the chips fall where they may, this particular version is going to try its best to predict some trades likely to happen along the way. It would be much easier to figure out where a particular player will land if the draft order stayed intact, but what fun would that be?
That’s where the real drama happens on draft day. It’s hard to get a bigger rush as a fan in a non-game environment than when commissioner Roger Goodell announces that your favorite team has traded up. These moves sometimes pave the way for dynasties while other times they set franchises back years as they forfeit future draft choices for instant gratification.
But enough about the psychology of the draft; this year’s selection promises to have plenty of excitement with potential franchise quarterbacks, a cornerstone defensive player and several elite talents that could really thrive if placed in the right environment. Sometimes that’s what determines if a draft is successful or not, and this projection will try to take that factor into account when matching up players with the right situations.
Now let’s get down to business. Here is how the draft could go down, including trades, prior to the Combine.
1. Houston Texans -- Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
An offensive head coach like Bill O’Brien is likely to seek out a quarterback to hitch his wagon to with the top overall selection, and Teddy Bridgewater is clearly the safest pick in the draft for the Houston Texans. He has the touch to make tough throws and still has the arm strength to zip those out routes from the far hash right on target. The Louisville product may not be as foolproof as Andrew Luck was coming out of school, but it’s easy to see a Matt Ryan type of career out of Bridgewater at the next level.
2. **TRADE** Atlanta Falcons (via St. Louis Rams from Washington Redskins) -- Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Let the fireworks begin as the St. Louis Rams have already proclaimed that they’re open for business. This selection will likely go to the highest bidder, and the Atlanta Falcons will be desperate to add a difference maker on defense. It’s impossible to find a bigger impact player than Jadeveon Clowney entering the draft, and he will likely only solidify that status at the Combine. In the deal to jump up, the Falcons will surrender their No. 37 overall pick in Round 2, their fourth-round selection and a second-round pick in 2015.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Keeping Blake Bortles on the east coast of Florida would be a nice coup for a Jacksonville Jaguars club that’s always desperate to help sell some additional tickets. Add in the fact that Bortles would immediately be better than anyone the Jags have had under center since the Mark Brunnell expansion days, and this pick gives fans a real reason for optimism. Though some question Bortles’ arm strength to make the tough throws at the next level, he’s only 22-years-old and has the build to gain some zip with the training regimen and coaching at the next level. At 6-foot-4, 230-pounds he offers the kind of upside that Jacksonville is unfamiliar with at the most important position on the field.
4. Cleveland Browns -- Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
This pick feels somewhat forced given the way Brandon Weeden has performed combined with the noise that the Cleveland Browns may contemplate moving up for Johnny Football, but this is a marriage bound to happen one way or the other come May. There’s no doubt Johnny Manziel would be better than Weeden from the get-go, and the excitement he would bring to Cleveland is something that has really been missed by the franchise since its rebirth in 1999. Whether it turns out to be a complete train wreck or poetry in motion, there’s no denying the intrigue factor would be at an all-time high for the Brownies.
5. Oakland Raiders -- Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Oakland Raiders should thank all of the teams ahead of them for giving the franchise no choice but to go for a receiver with the top three QBs off the board. Sammy Watkins has the tools to be a true difference maker for the Raiders, and whether it’s Matt McGloin or Terrelle Pryor throwing passes, Watkins will make either one look good. At 6-foot-1, 205-pounds, Watkins offers the deep speed to blow the top off of opposing defenses while also having the lateral quickness to make plays in space. His dynamic skill-set is something the Raiders haven’t seen in quite some time.
6. St. Louis Rams (via Atlanta Falcons) -- Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
This scenario really would be beneficial for the St. Louis Rams as they slide down four spots, pick up additional picks and still land the player they would have taken in Jake Matthews. With one tackle in Rodger Saffold a free agent and the other in Jake Long on the road to recovery from a torn ACL, the uncertainty at the position is obvious for Jeff Fisher’s crew. The Rams could mull the tackle considered to have more upside in Greg Robinson here, but Matthews is a plug-and-play asset with connections to Fisher through his father, Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews who played under Fisher with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
Some may question taking a smaller school prospect like Khalil Mack this early, but his talent is well worth it. Pairing Mack with Lavonte David would give the Tampa Bay Buccaneers one of the most impressive linebacker duos in the league, and their defense would be well on its way to becoming elite under new head coach Lovie Smith.
8. **TRADE** New York Jets (via Minnesota Vikings) -- Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Getting Geno Smith a security blanket to aid his development should be a top priority for the New York Jets this offseason, and getting ahead of the Buffalo Bills may be necessary to secure the rights to top tight end Eric Ebron. The Minnesota Vikings should be more than willing to move down with the top three quarterbacks long gone, and this deal would make a lot of sense for both parties involved. The Vikes will get the No. 49 overall pick in Round 2 from the Jets, and New York will get a dynamic weapon in Ebron to help Smith grow into a franchise quarterback in his second year at the helm.
9. Buffalo Bills -- Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Instead of panicking and reaching for a playmaker with Eric Ebron off the board, the Buffalo Bills will settle for filling a secondary need with the best player available in Greg Robinson. Some are actually projecting the tackle to go ahead of Jake Matthews at this point due to his upside, and the Bills would get a steal by staying put to pair with Cordy Glenn to better insulate last year’s first-rounder in E.J. Manuel. Robinson is actually very similar to Glenn coming out of school with a high ceiling that he has yet to reach, and the Bills could cultivate that talent to build one heck of an offensive line moving forward.
10. Detroit Lions -- Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Detroit Lions will feel the pressure to take the local product in Darqueze Dennard out of Michigan State, but Justin Gilbert just makes more sense as the more physical, proven cover guy. There’s no question the Lions need help in the secondary, and adding a 6-foot, 200-pound corner in today’s NFL is a huge coup for a defense that struggled to stop anybody in 2013. Gilbert will be a plug-and-play starter at corner with the ability to make some game-changing plays on the edge is quarterbacks throw his direction.
11. Tennessee Titans -- Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Some undue scrutiny has pushed Taylor Lewan’s draft stock down after he would have been a top 10 pick last year. But his talent is still clearly present, and the Tennessee Titans get an absolute steal to help retooling their aging offensive line with some overpriced veterans with one foot out the door. David Stewart may wind up as a cap casualty this offseason, and Michael Roos’ contract is up after the 2014 season so Lewan will have time to learn potential or plug in on the right side if Stewart is let go. This is a huge addition for a line that signed Andy Levitre last offseason and drafted Chance Warmack a year ago. Building in the trenches is always a great place to start, and the Titans make a can’t miss pick with Lewan at this juncture.
12. New York Giants -- C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
The versatility that C.J. Mosley would offer to a New York Giants defense that was pathetic a year ago would be an instant upgrade in 2014. He can play inside or outside effectively which provides plenty of depth should injuries pop up along the way. Mosley was super productive at Alabama, and he would instantly step into a starting role in New York from the get-go. This really is a match made in heaven for a team that fell so far so quickly a season ago.
13. **TRADE** Philadelphia Eagles (via St. Louis Rams) -- Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Trading down has become a regular thing for the St. Louis Rams, and the Philadelphia Eagles are desperate for a playmaking safety in the mold of all-time Philly great Brian Dawkins on the back-end. Calvin Pryor is a hot name currently, and he is sure to gain even more steam after the Combine where his speed and athleticism will place him as the top safety in this year’s class. At 6-foot-1, 210-pounds he is a physical safety capable of playing down in the box and banging with the big uglies. Pryor’s instincts will make him super attractive and all but irresistible for a Philly team looking to make the next step in 2014. This deal would net the Rams yet another second-round pick for the team to add to its growing stockpile.
14. Chicago Bears -- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Much like we see every year, this will trigger the run on safeties with the Chicago Bears snagging the other elite prospect in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix out of Alabama. Clinton-Dix is a similar build to Pryor at 6-foot-1, 208-pounds, but he is much less physically imposing and prefers to play in space. What he lacks in physicality, however, he makes up for in coverage skills with great hands to make the interception and terrific open field agility to make offensive players turned tacklers miss. The Bears really need a safety that can play well in coverage over the top, and Clinton-Dix would add that element to their arsenal.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers -- Kony Ealy, LB, Missouri
It seems more and more likely that LaMarr Woodley will be a cap casualty for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Jason Worilds is set to be an unrestricted free agent. This will open up a serious vacancy on the outside edge at rush outside linebacker, and Kony Ealy would be a great player to pair with last year’s first-rounder in Jarvis Jones. At 6-foot-5, 275-pounds he projects as a bit more physical of player than Jones was a year ago, and these two would complement one another perfectly rushing the passer off the edge in the black and gold for years to come.
16. Dallas Cowboys -- Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
An obvious place to start improving the Dallas Cowboys is with the league’s worst defense, and Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan would be a great piece to spark that resurrection. At 6-foot-2, 298-pounds he plays with active hands and shows tremendous agility for a man his size. The Cowboys really lack an elite defensive tackle in their transition to the 4-3 defense, and Jernigan fits perfectly into Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli’s Tampa 2 scheme. He will immediately improve what was an absolutely abysmal unit a year ago and perhaps help this team become a legit playoff contender in 2014.
17. Baltimore Ravens -- Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
There are a number of reasons Mike Evans to the Baltimore Ravens makes sense, but at the top of that list is clearly Anquan Boldin. Joe Flacco missed his physical, go-to receiver last season, and the Ravens need to find him another player in the mold to help revitalize that offense. Evans is every bit of 6-foot-5, 225-pounds, and as long as he runs a 40-time of sub-4.6 seconds he should be considered an elite chain-moving target for the Ravens in the middle of Round 1.
18. Minnesota Vikings (via New York Jets) -- Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
There is hesitation to take Derek Carr in the top 10, and the Minnesota Vikings would be elated to drop down to the middle of Round 1 and still land their desired signal-caller. Carr possesses the elite arm talent, athleticism and instincts to become a solid starter at the NFL level which is something the Vikings have been lacking since Brett Favre was in town for a cup of coffee. The transition from operating primarily out of the shotgun to up under center will be a big task for Carr, but he should be able to iron that out fairly quickly in training camp. Maybe this is the QB to finally help Adrian Peterson make that playoff run he deserves before his shelf-life as an NFL running back expires.
19. Miami Dolphins -- Zack Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
Many raved about Zack Martin’s amazing ability to mirror defenders at the Senior Bowl, and that impressive showing is only one-upped by his impressive versatility along the offensive line. Martin could easily play any position in the trenches, and the Miami Dolphins could potentially need some help at every one of them in 2014. He’s a bit of a tweener as far as linemen are concerned at 6-foot-4, 305-pounds, but the worst case scenario is clearly a decade long Pro Bowl level career at guard for this young man.
20. **TRADE** Kansas City Chiefs (via Arizona Cardinals) -- Marqise Lee, WR, USC
It just so happens that as the needs fell so did Marqise Lee despite his elite talent at the receiver position. The Kansas City Chiefs would be wise to jump ahead of two teams that could use another pass catcher to grab a player they desperately need to help out quarterback Alex Smith in his second year under Andy Reid’s direction. The Chiefs have Dwayne Bowe and then everybody else at wideout, and Lee would give them another elite receiver to take the top off of the defense. At 6-foot, 195-pounds, Lee doesn’t have the physicality of Bowe, but he will make the ideal complement to his more sizable counterpart on the other side of the field.
21. Green Bay Packers -- Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
This is a player who is going to really open some eyes at the Combine with his freakish skill-set. Ra’Shede Hageman may have played in relative anonymity at Minnesota, but at 6-foot-6, 318-pounds he has a 360-dunk in his repertoire and some ridiculous numbers in his past experience with the Combine tests. With a reported 36-inch vertical, a 10-yard sprint time of 1.57 seconds and a ridiculous 465 pound max bench-press, Hageman won’t stay a secret for long. With the Green Bay Packers looking to get stronger defending the run and B.J. Raji on his way out of town, Hageman would be a terrific addition to the roster.
22. St. Louis Rams (via Philadelphia Eagles) -- Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
This may not be an immediate need for the St. Louis Rams this offseason, but pairing Aaron Donald with Michael Brockers on the interior of a defensive line that is book-ended by Chris Long and Robert Quinn would be a sight to behold. This pick would obviously entail the release of the Rams’ current defensive tackle Kendall Langford and his bloated cap number as well, but that would be all well and good if the team could add the standout of the Senior Bowl. Donald was virtually unblockable in Mobile, Ala. last month, and those skills would provide the Rams with a defensive front that would make even the Fearsome Foursome of yesteryear take notice.
23. Arizona Cardinals (via Kansas City Chiefs) -- Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
After sliding down a few spots and adding an extra pick, the Arizona Cardinals still land the weapon they wanted on offense in tight end Jace Amaro. Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd are clearly top-shelf options at the wideout position, but the Cards haven’t had an elite tight end since, well, forever. Amaro has garnered comparisons to Rob Gronkowski coming out of school, and Arizona can only hope he turns out to be half that good in their offense.
24. Cincinnati Bengals -- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Many are pegging Darqueze Dennard much higher than this, but there are serious question for me about his speed and whether he can handle the next level of competition. Some GMs have voiced those same concerns which could send him tumbling down draft boards even further if he fails to test well at the Combine. For now this seems like a nice landing spot for him where he can gradually assimilate to the professional ranks and learn from veterans like Terence Newman and Leon Hall with the Cincinnati Bengals.
25. San Diego Chargers -- Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame
Every play begins at the line of scrimmage, and the San Diego Chargers’ defense was so lackluster last season in large part due to their weakness up the middle up front. The team is losing nose tackle Cam Thomas to free agency and will likely look to the draft for a replacement. Louis Nix III is a massive (6-foot-2, 345-pound) run stuffer who would instantly add some girth inside to the San Diego defense. His ability to hold up at the point of attack and eat up double teams would be a huge addition to free up the linebackers to make plays in space. This truly is an ideal fit for San Diego in Round 1.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis Colts) -- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
After getting their franchise quarterback earlier, the Cleveland Browns will be more than content to sit tight and take the monstrous playmaking wideout Kelvin Benjamin to pair with their already elite playmaker in Josh Gordon. Added in with Jordan Cameron at tight end this would really provide an overnight facelift for an offense that was hard to watch at times in 2013. Benjamin would provide the jump ball, red zone target for Johnny Manziel while Gordon could continue to stretch the field and Cameron could roam the underneath routes. This would certainly give some new life to the AFC North cellar dwellers.
27. New Orleans Saints -- Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
Finding the right personnel for the switch from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4 defense is always the toughest task in the transition, and Rob Ryan’s defense with the New Orleans Saints is no exception. He made due with some guys playing out of position in 2013, but adding Dee Ford would give the unit a prototypical stand-up outside linebacker to rush the passer and create havoc on the edge. A spectacular Senior Bowl sent Ford flying up draft boards, and his showing in Mobile will ultimately land him a great gig in the perfect scheme with the Saints.
28. Carolina Panthers -- Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
This fall is more about team need than anything, but there’s no doubt the Carolina Panthers would love to snag Cyrus Kouandjio at No. 28 overall on draft day. Jordan Gross may choose not to return next season, but even if he does he is running out of time as an elite level left tackle. Kouandjio would be an immediate plug-and-play on the right side while Gross is still around and then transition to blindside protector once he decides to retire. This would be an ideal fit for Carolina and really help ease their transition to the post-Jordan Gross era in the trenches.
29. New England Patriots -- Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame
It’s widely assumed that Vince Wilfork will be a cap casualty this offseason for the New England Patriots which will leave them awfully thin at the defensive tackle spot. Stephon Tuitt would be the perfect fit in a Bill Belichick defense with scheme versatility and an innate ability to press the pocket. At 6-foot-6, 312-pounds he is loaded with upside and would be too much to pass up at this point in the draft. With the proper coaching in New England, this could be a nightmare for opposing teams to have to face over the next decade.
30. San Francisco 49ers -- Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
When picking at the bottom of Round 1 year after year it gets tough to really plug holes, but the San Francisco 49ers may actually succeed by picking Davante Adams. Anquan Boldin is a top priority this offseason, but he won’t last forever so a contingency plan must be enacted. Adams is a similarly physical receiver with an identical frame at 6-foot-1, 215-pounds who could take over when Boldin moves on. As a red zone target, he makes an intriguing option to help the 49ers’ passing game take flight over the coming years.
31. Denver Broncos -- Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
Length is the buzzword with Marcus Roberson who at 6-foot, 195-pounds isn’t going to wow you with any of his physical attributes, but his game film will do the talking. He’s a fluid athlete who remains patient and sits on routes to bait quarterbacks in which is a trait developed far beyond his years. Champ Bailey is on his last legs with the Denver Broncos, and this team really lacks for depth in the secondary behind him. Roberson would be an immediate upgrade for Denver on defense and get to learn from one of the best at his position in his transition to the league.
32. Seattle Seahawks -- Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Needs are few and far between for the Super Bowl champions, but finding Russell Wilson a reliable weapon would be a good place to start. Between Percy Harvin’s injury issues and Golden Tate’s free agency status and overly active vocal cords, a guy like Jordan Matthews would be a terrific addition to the Seattle Seahawks’ arsenal. There are concerns about Matthews’ athleticism and pure speed which will drop him down some draft boards, but he is a football player who knows the nuances of the game and excels because of that knowledge. Those qualities would be a solid coup for a Seattle team just looking to sustain its reign atop the NFL hierarchy.