NFL mock draft: Who’s No. 1?
By Dane Brugler
Through the second round of playoff action, we know the draft order for the first 28 picks of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Picks 29-32 will be determined by the conference championship games this weekend.
There is a new name at the top of my mock draft. Not because it’s time to shake things up, but rather because it’s a real possibility that Blake Bortles could be the quarterback the Texans target at the top of the draft. Several NFL scouts around the league rave about his natural tools and potential at the NFL level, drawing comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger and others.
Last year only one quarterback was drafted in the first round, but there will be several quarterback-needy teams picking early in May, including the Jaguars, Texans, Vikings, Browns and several others. I asked the Director of Scouting for a NFL team to give me his prediction for the over/under quarterbacks drafted in the first round? He answered four.
With four months to figure out the answers, time will force the dominoes to fall, but if the draft were today, this is how I think it might play out.
1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Losing the final 14 games of last season, the Texans deserve this top spot. But despite the forgettable season, Houston isn’t a complete re-build and new head coach Bill O’Brien inherits a roster that only needs a few tweaks. If the Texans keep this pick, it would be a surprise if they went in any other direction but quarterback and while Teddy Bridgewater seems to be the favorite, don’t count out Bortles here.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Redskins): Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
This is a tough pill to swallow for the Redskins, who have earned this high of a pick, but traded it to the Rams two years ago in the Robert Griffin deal. Expect the Rams to offer up this pick for ransom, similar to two years ago, but if they keep it, GM Les Snead and his staff have the luxury of going best player available, which is the Clowney.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Jaguars played themselves out of the first overall pick by winning a few games down the stretch, but imagine their luck if Bridgewater is still on the board when they pick at three. This new regime needs to identify who the quarterback of the future will be to lead Jacksonville out of mediocrity.
4. Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Brandon Weeden won’t be back in Cleveland, Jason Campbell is a stopgap and while Brian Hoyer is still in the team’s long-term plans, he’s coming off an ACL injury and Cleveland needs to add a young arm to the mix. Manziel will certainly create colorful discussions between now and May, not only on Twitter and your local bar, but also scouting war rooms around the league. He will be an option for the Browns here.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Raiders need upgrades at several positions, most importantly quarterback. But they might be left in a spot where they guy they want isn’t left on the board. If that’s the case, Watkins would be a nice consolation prize.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Falcons have more than a few needs, but one of them is at left tackle where Atlanta needs to find a long-term replacement for Sam Baker. Robinson is a devastating run blocker and while he needs time to develop in pass protection, he has a very high ceiling.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
With a new regime in Tampa, a quarterback is a real option in the first round for the Buccaneers, but not a priority with Mike Glennon doing enough to keep his starting job for another season. The Bucs also have a need on the other side of the ball at pass rusher and Mack might be the guy Lovie Smith targets.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Minnesota is stuck in quarterback mediocrity with Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and newly acquired Josh Freeman. Regardless if the head coach or general manager is back, quarterback has to be No. 1 on the off-season priority list and Carr has the arm talent that Christian Ponder never showed.
9. Buffalo Bills: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Bills have received better than expected results from Cordy Glenn at left tackle, but could still use an upgrade on the right side and with Matthews still available in this scenario, he might be tough to pass up.
10. Detroit Lions: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Lions expected more out of their secondary this season, but the results haven’t been quite what they expected. Dennard isn’t the fastest and needs to control his aggressive nature downfield, but he works hard to gain positioning and blankets receivers with his physicality.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA
The Titans pass defense is ranked top-10 in the league, but Tennessee could use an upgrade to its pass rush. Barr is used to playing standing up, but his pass rushing talent allows him to be moved around the front-seven and will upgrade Tennessee’s defense.
12. New York Giants: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Giants offense was all over the map this season and while there is plenty of blame to go around, the front office needs to tweak certain positions, including tight end. Ebron has the athleticism of a receiver and instantly creates mismatches for opposing defenses.
13. St. Louis Rams: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
St. Louis added Jake Long in free agency last off-season, but he suffered a torn ACL last week and Lewan would be an upgrade over Rodger Saffold and Joseph Barksdale on the other side. Lewan has the mean streak and athletic base made for the pros.
14. Chicago Bears: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The Bears need to add depth in the secondary and the interior defensive line in the offseason. Hageman is a versatile, strong player who can play multiple spots up front in the NFL.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: HaHa Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Playmaking safeties are in high demand in the NFL right now so don’t expect Clinton-Dix to last long on draft day. The Steelers need to find the long-term replacement for free agent Ryan Clark at free safety and Clinton-Dix fits the bill.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The Ravens have deep threats at receiver with Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown, but could use a larger, more physical talent for Joe Flacco to target. Evans won’t run a blazing 40-yard dash but he’s fast enough with the aggressive nature to win contested throws and be a threat after the catch.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Kony Ealy, DE, Minnesota
The Cowboys almost have to go defensive line with this pick, addressing either end or tackle. Ealy isn’t a “big name” but he’s a talented pass rusher who has the tools to garner first round attention.
18. New York Jets: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Although he’s been a turnover machine, Geno Smith will likely hold onto the starting gig for another year. And the Jets need to add more weapons to the offensive arsenal and Lee will be one of the targets New York will consider.
19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
The Dolphins might be able to get by with their patchwork offensive line for now, but no question an upgrade is needed. Kouandjio is still developing and needs to improve his technique, but the size and athleticism combo is enough to earn him a spot in the top 20.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
The Cardinals defense has been quietly been one of the better units in the league, but need to get younger at outside linebacker. Shazier has shown the versatility to be effective dropping in space (122 tackles this season) or rushing the passer and making stops in the backfield (22.5 tackles for loss).
21. Green Bay Packers: Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame
Green Bay loses a lot of their beef up front on the defensive side of the ball to free agency this year, but Nix could give the Packers a replacement for BJ Raji if the nose tackle chooses big money over returning to Green Bay.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
Chip Kelly will look to add a fast, playmaking type at edge rusher who can disrupt the pocket and develop into a cornerstone of the Eagles defense. And if Beasley is still around here, he fits that need very well.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
The Chiefs’ secondary had hiccups all season, but never as much as the playoff loss to the Colts. Pryor would give the Chiefs an upgrade over free agent-to-be Kendrick Lewis at free safety.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The Bengals have some talented players on the depth chart at cornerback, but need to continue to build depth there. Gilbert has the size, body control and overall speed to hold up on an island at the NFL level.
25. San Diego Chargers: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
The Chargers addressed the offensive line in the first round last April with D.J. Fluker, but San Diego still needs help in the trenches, specifically at left tackle. Martin is the type of player who teams will look to keep at tackle, but he might end up being a much better player inside at guard.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Colts): C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
If the Browns go quarterback at No. 4 overall, their second first round pick is a wildcard with several need areas on the Cleveland roster. And while linebacker isn’t tops on that list, if a player like Mosley is still available, he makes sense inside next to D’Qwell Jackson.
27. New Orleans Saints: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
With the Saints are missing a big-play receiver on the outside who could potentially be a No. 1 threat for Drew Brees. Benjamin needs refinement in several areas, but you can’t coach his size/speed combination that is a mismatch for many NFL defenders.
28. Carolina Panthers: Allen Robinson, WR Penn State
Can the Panthers really go another off-season without finding more weapons for Cam Newton? Robinson has been one of the most productive receivers over the past few seasons, for several different quarterbacks. He isn’t overly special athletically, but he is a natural at the position.
29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The Patriots are hopeful that Rob Gronkowski will be healthy by the start of the 2014 regular season, but regardless, New England needs to add another tight end to the mix. Amaro is a versatile pass catcher who would fill the void from Aaron Hernandez.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
San Francisco needs to get younger at cornerback and Verrett would be a good fit at nickel and also compete for a starting role as a rookie.
31. Denver Broncos: Stephon Tuitt, DL, Notre Dame
The Broncos should continue to get stronger up front on defense in the off-season and Tuitt provides a player who can line up inside and outside.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Zach Martin, OG, Notre Dame
The starting offensive guards in Seattle have produced inconsistent results so far this season. Martin, who lines up at left tackle for the Irish, projects best at guard where he could be worth a first round pick.
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