2014 NFL Mock Draft: Projecting the First Round, Post Free Agency With Some Curveballs

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Projecting the First Round With Some Curveballs

2014 NFL Mock Draft
Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Trying to predict all 32 picks in the NFL Draft exactly correct with team and player is nearly as unlikely as prognosticating a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket (silly Warren Buffett). It’s just not going to happen unless you make some picks that go against the grain, and that’s exactly what this mock draft does. Although there are no trades in this version, the picks and teams match up quite well as is with the way the board falls.

1. Houston Texans -- Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

Blake Bortles 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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1. Houston Texans -- Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

Blake Bortles 2014 NFL Mock Draft
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Passing on the best player on the board is always baffling, but when the need at quarterback is so obvious, the Texans selecting Blake Bortles can be justified. Jadeveon Clowney would be the better pick in terms of overall proven talent, but Bortles will give first-year head coach Bill O'Brien a QB to work his magic on.

2. St. Louis Rams -- Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Jadeveon Clowney 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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2. St. Louis Rams -- Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

2014 NFL Mock Draft Jadeveon Clowney
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It would be the definition of overkill if the Rams actually make this pick, but a trade down or some type of draft and trade with Jadeveon Clowney could make sense. Robert Quinn and Chris Long are already on the roster, but putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks is the top priority for every team in the NFL these days. Just don't be surprised if the Rams actually pull the trigger on this young man if they can't find a trade partner.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Teddy Bridgewater 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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3. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Teddy Bridgewater 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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There may be questions about limited upside or physical attributes, but one thing not in question is Teddy Bridgewater’s ability to start from day one. That’s clearly a need for the quarterback-starved Jaguars even though Chad Henne is still in town. Gus Bradley could use Bridgewater to help get a team that made some quiet but effective moves in free agency to the next level in 2014.

4. Cleveland Browns -- Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Sammy Watkins 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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4. Cleveland Browns -- Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Sammy Watkins 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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Just picturing Josh Gordon and Sammy Watkins on the field together has to be an enticing idea for fans of the Browns. Such an addition would give this team some of the best young skill position players in the NFL if they can find a quarterback to facilitate. Perhaps that will come with their second selection in Round 1.

5. Oakland Raiders -- Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

Aaron Donald
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5. Oakland Raiders -- Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

Aaron Donald
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These may not be the Raiders of old from the Al Davis days, but this organization just loves finding ways to throw curveballs at the pundits. Aaron Donald is the fastest riser in this draft class with physical skills that the franchise's late owner would have adored. Lamarr Houston leaving via free agency leaves a gaping hole inside on the defensive line, and since Matt Schaub arrived to fill the QB void, this pick actually makes a ton of sense.

6. Atlanta Falcons -- Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Jake Matthews 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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6. Atlanta Falcons -- Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Jake Matthews St. Louis Rams 2014 NFL Draft
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Falcons QB Matt Ryan took a lot of flack for his lackluster play a year ago, but a lot of that falls on his O-line. Jake Matthews would help remedy that issue immediately as the most polished of this year’s offensive tackles, and he would plug in to start from the get-go in Atlanta. Conventional wisdom has the Falcons going with a pass rusher here, but they need to protect their investment under center in Matty Ice.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Greg Robinson 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Greg Robinson 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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It seems like the copycat league vibe truly surfaces at the draft, and the monkey-see, monkey-do attitude befalls the Buccaneers with the massive Greg Robinson. Tampa needs to fortify the offensive line after the offense was pretty much inept a year ago. Whether it’s Josh McCown or Mike Glennon under center for new head coach Lovie Smith won’t matter much if neither one can stand in the pocket long enough to deliver timely, accurate throws.

8. Minnesota Vikings -- Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

Khalil Mack 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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8. Minnesota Vikings -- Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

Khalil Mack 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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Most want to send a QB to the Vikings, but they had the worst defense in the league a year ago. Adding a stud like Khalil Mack would be a great step toward changing that and would fit with what new head coach Mike Zimmer hopes to build in Minnesota. This team can get by with Matt Cassel under center, but they will have a much more difficult time winning games if they give up 480 points again in 2014 like they did last season.

9. Buffalo Bills -- Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Taylor Lewan 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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9. Buffalo Bills -- Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Taylor Lewan 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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Off-field concerns aside, Taylor Lewan is a can’t miss prospect when projecting left tackles. His physicality will find success in the NFL and provide E.J. Manuel -- or whomever the Bills put under center -- will a secure blindside for the next decade. Though they could opt for a playmaker at this juncture, a deep draft in receivers should have Buffalo leaning toward an immediate upgrade to the offensive line in Lewan.

10. Detroit Lions -- Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Justin Gilbert 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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10. Detroit Lions -- Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Justin Gilbert 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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The Lions addressed the safety spot in free agency, making cornerback a must in the draft. There’s really no need to try to outthink the room with this selection as Justin Gilbert is the best of this year’s crop at corner. He has elite athleticism and speed (4.37 40-time) to go along with impressive size (6-foot, 200-pounds) to defend taller, more physical receivers at the next level.

11. Tennessee Titans -- Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

Anthony Barr 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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11. Tennessee Titans -- Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

Anthony Barr 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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The move to the 3-4 necessitates new defensive talent, and Anthony Barr is just what the Titans need to find success. His versatility fits the hybrid scheme new defensive coordinator Ray Horton is looking to install, and there’s no doubt that Tennessee could use an upgrade in terms of personnel for getting to the quarterback. The Titans’ 37.0 sacks tied for 23rd in the league last season, and Barr will help improve that number in 2014.

12. New York Giants -- Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

Mike Evans 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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12. New York Giants -- Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

Mike Evans 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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Hakeem Nicks is gone and Victor Cruz remains, but even though Rueben Randle proved he can be a nice secondary option, the Giants still need more help for Eli Manning. After spending most of their resources upgrading the defense in free agency, looking at Mike Evans in the draft would be a nice investment. He could easily become Eli’s next Plaxico Burress (minus the self-inflicted gunshot wound, of course).

13. St. Louis Rams -- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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13. St. Louis Rams -- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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Pairing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with last year’s third-round pick T.J. McDonald at safety would have the Rams on their way to fixing an atrocious pass defense. There were some inexplicable gaffes in coverage last year and plenty of shoddy tackling in the secondary that could certainly use an upgrade. Clinton-Dix brings range and athleticism to make some game-changing plays the likes of which have really been lacking in St. Louis of late.

14. Chicago Bears -- Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

Calvin Pryor 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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14. Chicago Bears -- Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

Calvin Pryor 2014 NFL Mock Draft
David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The run on safeties will become official when the Bears address one of their biggest roster deficiencies with Calvin Pryor. They’ve made a few additions to address the issue in free agency, but none of those guys will hold a candle to Pryor. He has the pop to lay the big hit that will deter opponents from coming over the middle, and that type of presence has been missing from Chicago for a while now.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers -- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Darqueze Dennard 2014 NFL Mock Draft
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

15. Pittsburgh Steelers -- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Darqueze Dennard 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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Free agency has focused on offense for the Steelers, but they need to find cornerback help in the worst way. Ike Taylor is on his last legs, and Darqueze Dennard would be a great fit to take over when he decides to call it quits. It’s time the Steelers start replenishing the cupboards on defense with some young talent, and Dennard’s physicality in coverage will instantly endear him to the fans in the Steel City.

16. Dallas Cowboys -- Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Johnny Manziel 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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16. Dallas Cowboys -- Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Johnny Manziel 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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You may have been wondering if Johnny Football was forgotten from this mock, but a slide due to his laundry list of concerns benefits Jerry Jones and the Cowboys with a QB of the future behind the always questionable Tony Romo. Given the back issues plaguing Dallas’ enigmatic starter and Jones’ propensity to seek attention, this pick to keep Manziel in the Lone Star state is a match made for Hollywood (or north Texas).

17. Baltimore Ravens -- Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Marqise Lee 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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17. Baltimore Ravens -- Marqise Lee, WR, USC

Marqise Lee 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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Steve Smith arrived on a one-year deal, but he’s just a stopgap solution for a larger problem with the Ravens. Marqise Lee has game-changing talent that would flourish with Joe Flacco’s big arm in Baltimore to give this offense three legitimate vertical threats alongside Torrey Smith. A pick like this would make Ray Rice’s legal troubles and any need for a running game quickly fade into the background for the Ravens.

18. New York Jets -- Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Kyle Fuller 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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18. New York Jets -- Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Kyle Fuller 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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Rex Ryan loves his defense, and after purging Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie at corner in back-to-back years, there’s no doubt the Jets need help there. Kyle Fuller brings a physical element to the table that most corners don’t possess at 6-foot, 190-pounds. He has excellent bloodlines with both of his brothers having been a part of the league, and that type of pedigree will be attractive to many NFL front offices.

19. Miami Dolphins -- Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

Zack Martin 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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19. Miami Dolphins -- Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

2014 NFL Mock Draft Zack Martin
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It’s no secret that the Dolphins need O-line help after the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin debacle, and Zack Martin has the versatility that could really aid a team in such disarray in the trenches. Though they added some help in free agency, Martin could provide an immediate starter at either right tackle or one of the guard positions to really take some pressure off of young quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

20. Arizona Cardinals -- C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

C.J. Mosley 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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20. Arizona Cardinals -- C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

C.J. Mosley 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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Karlos Dansby’s departure 2.0 leads to a big need for the Cardinals at linebacker, and C.J. Mosley would be the perfect candidate to fill that void. The linebacker position has been devalued recently in the NFL with the progression to a more aerial based league, but Mosley has the versatility to help defenses thwart both the run and the pass with equal effectiveness. He would be a great fit in Arizona as an immediate plug-and-play starter.

21. Green Bay Packers -- Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

Ryan Shazier 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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21. Green Bay Packers -- Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

Ryan Shazier 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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In yet another back-to-back positional pick, the Packers add some much-needed speed to their linebacking corps with Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier. He’s been largely overlooked in most projections to this point, but when you put on any game tape of Ohio State, it’s impossible to miss this kid flying around making playing. Speed is his greatest asset by far, and in a league where passing is king, Shazier will come in handy as a coverage linebacker.

22. Philadelphia Eagles -- Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA

Xavier Su'a-Filo 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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22. Philadelphia Eagles -- Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA

Xavier Su'a-Filo 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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DeSean Jackson earned a trip out of town, and it’s likely guard Evan Mathis will at some point soon as well. Xavier Su’a-Filo would help fill in the hole left by his expected exit and continue the Eagles’ transformation in the trenches from last year’s selection of Lane Johnson. Su’a Filo fits the mold of an up-tempo Chip Kelly type of player as well with an extremely athletic build for a 307-pound man.

23. Kansas City Chiefs -- Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

Brandin Cooks 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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23. Kansas City Chiefs -- Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

Brandin Cooks 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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Andy Reid will see the same qualities in Brandin Cooks he once saw in DeSean Jackson and utilize the speedster to the fullest of his abilities with the Chiefs. There’s no question Kansas City could use some help at the receiver position with Dwayne Bowe being there only legitimate threat. Add in the departure of the explosive Dexter McCluster in free agency, and you get a team in desperate need of a playmaker like Cooks.

24. Cincinnati Bengals -- Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Jason Verrett 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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24. Cincinnati Bengals -- Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Jason Verrett 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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Age is catching up to the Bengals’ secondary, and Jason Verrett would add a much-needed playmaker to that veteran group. With Adam Jones, Terence Newman and Leon Hall at ages 30, 35 and 29 respectively, this team needs a serious youth infusion. Verrett may be a bit on small side, but he would add a huge presence to the Bengals’ defense in 2014.

25. San Diego Chargers -- Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame

Louis Nix III 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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25. San Diego Chargers -- Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame

Louis Nix III 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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Many focus on the Chargers’ struggles against the pass, but it’s up the middle where they really fell apart last season. Louis Nix III would be a terrific addition as a prototypical nose tackle in the 3-4 and help clog up running lanes on the defensive front. The departure of last season’s nose tackle Cam Thomas really underscores the need for a big body inside, and at 6-foot-2, 331-pounds it’s hard to find a better fit than Nix for the Bolts.

26. Cleveland Browns -- Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

Derek Carr 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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26. Cleveland Browns -- Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

Derek Carr 2014 NFL Mock Draft
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland opted out on a QB early in the draft, but they get the guy they’ve been targeting in Derek Carr with their second first-rounder. The complete change in regimes for the Browns swept out any sentiment for Brandon Weeden or a Johnny Manziel selection, but the new front office is said to be quite enamored with Carr. He has the bloodlines, the numbers and the skill-set to become the first solid QB in Cleveland since, well, ever.

27. New Orleans Saints -- Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

Kony Ealy 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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27. New Orleans Saints -- Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

Kony Ealy 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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It would be a gift to get a player like Kony Ealy by staying put, and Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defense with the Saints would really benefit from this impressive pass-rusher. It’s not just his Mizzou ties that have many scouts comparing Ealy to Aldon Smith as far as potential is concerned, and this kid’s ceiling is really sky-high. He would excel in the 3-4 look Ryan runs in New Orleans and help that defense take the next step toward becoming elite in 2014.

28. Carolina Panthers -- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Kelvin Benjamin 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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28. Carolina Panthers -- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Kelvin Benjamin 2014 NFL Mock Draft
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Smith is gone and so is Ted Ginn, while only the veteran Jerricho Cotchery arrives. The Panthers need some serious help at receiver in the draft and find it in the monstrous Kelvin Benjamin. Landing a legit red zone target would aid Cam Newton’s career development and also give the Panthers an added dimension when they are knocking on the door for touchdowns in the future.

29. New England Patriots -- Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

Eric Ebron 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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29. New England Patriots -- Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

Eric Ebron 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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The Patriots need a second tight end – or first depending on Rob Gronkowski’s injury issues – after the Aaron Hernandez debacle, and Eric Ebron is the best in the 2014 class. There’s no question that Tom Brady ran the offense at peak efficiency in New England with the two-headed monster at tight end, and adding the physical freak in Ebron would allow the Patriots to try and milk once last championship out of the Golden Boy.

30. San Francisco 49ers -- Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

Odell Beckham Jr. 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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30. San Francisco 49ers -- Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

Odell Beckham Jr. 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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Michael Crabtree’s deal is expiring soon and Anquan Boldin won’t last forever. Odell Beckham Jr. gives the 49ers some real hope at receiver if both are gone after 2014 and provides a significant game-changer in the interim. This team has been knocking on the door of a championship for the past three seasons, and a speedy difference maker like Beckham could help them finally kick it down next season.

31. Denver Broncos -- David Yankey, OG, Stanford

David Yankey 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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31. Denver Broncos -- David Yankey, OG, Stanford

David Yankey 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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Zane Beadles left in free agency, and Peyton Manning needs to be protected if the Broncos hope to get close to another Super Bowl run next season. Look for Denver to add David Yankey to fortify the O-line and keep the push for a championship at full throttle in 2014. Yankey has plug-and-play potential with the ability to start at whichever guard spot incumbent Louis Vasquez doesn’t occupy next season.

32. Seattle Seahawks -- Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame

Stephon Tuitt 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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32. Seattle Seahawks -- Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame

Stephon Tuitt 2014 NFL Mock Draft
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Seattle doesn’t have many needs, but getting younger and more athletic in the trenches wouldn’t hurt any team. Stephon Tuitt has the type of ridiculous upside that should appeal to the Super Bowl champions, and he could be a double-digit sack guy at a position where that type of production is truly unheard of. The rich would certainly get richer with an addition like this for the Seahawks.


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