OVERVIEW: When we did our first mock draft back in February, we had the Houston Texans taking Teddy Bridgewater, viewed by most as the most NFL-ready quarterback in the 2014 draft, as the top pick. Three months later, in our final mock draft, we have Bridgewater again going to the Texans. But this time it is with the first pick of the second round. There is some movement in our final mock, including the growing sentiment that the Browns will make Johnny Manziel the fourth pick of the draft, despite having the 26th pick – where we theorize that only Manziel and Blake Bortles will be gone. Expect to see a few trades made as teams jockey for position once the picks start coming off the board.
1. Houston Texans – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina. This will be the lynchpin pick of the draft and it appears to be down to two players – Clowney and QB Blake Bortles – we're not buying the Johnny Football buzz because he has a team doing this. In the end, when you draft No. 1, you should take the player you envision having the greatest NFL career. Clowney is a bigger risk and Houston desperately needs a franchise QB, but Clowney has the potential to be a defensive game-changer, which is gaining more value all the time as offenses continue to morph into what the college game has become.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)—Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn. Miami let Jake Long go because they figured his best years were in the rearview mirror. Despite re-signing Rodger Saffold, he was dominant on the inside when moved to guard last year and is expected to return there. At a minimum, Robinson would play right tackle for one year. At the maximum, he replaces Long, who suffered a torn ACL and MCL late last year and his availability for the start of next season is in question. Robinson could be the reincarnation of Orlando Pace. If nothing else, as with RG3 that got them this pick, they could harvest picks to trade down and still get Robinson or Jake Matthews.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo. This may be a spot where somebody wants to make a big move – whether to get Mack or WR Sammy Watkins. The Jaguars have a ton of needs and, when you consider Chad Henne is No. 1 on your depth chart, having their choice of quarterbacks may be too tempting to pass up. But, as we wrote back in February, Mack's stock will be on the rise. Despite playing less-than-stellar competition that he dominated, he showed at the Combine that he can be a special player with a freakishly unique skill set. The Jags may not necessarily take Mack, but he will be the No. 3 pick – whether Jacksonville or someone else makes it.
4. Cleveland Browns – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M. Since rejoining the NFL in 1999, Cleveland has had nothing resembling a franchise quarterback. Manziel is the most dynamic of the 2014 draft class, despite being undersized and viewed by some scouts as an entitled, immature kid who may get dazzled by the big money that is coming his way. I hate changing this pick because, if the first three picks fall as we project, taking Sammy Watkins here and using the 26th pick on a QB would make a lot of sense. But, there is so much momentum connecting Johnny Football and the Browns that it's hard to ignore.
5. Oakland Raiders – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson. Al Davis may be gone, but the Raiders mindset isn't. The team consistently drafts players who were workout phenoms or Combine standouts – both of which apply to Watkins. It's hard to ignore his ability on the field, which is why he is a viable selection from the second pick on. The Raiders will likely entertain offers to trade into this spot, but don't be stunned to see Matt Schaub get an explosive weapon to help develop.
6. Atlanta Falcons—Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M. Sam Baker hasn't lived up to his contract at left tackle, and while some scouts have Matthews rated as the top tackle on the board he is ideally a right tackle that, with more time, can become a solid left tackle. Seeing as the Falcons are only one year into the six-year deal, they aren't throwing in the towel on Baker just yet. If he pans out, they're set with bookend tackles for the next five years. If not, Matthews will get a year or two of catching up to speed and then make the move to left tackle.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M. The third straight A&M player to come off the board, the Bucs have suddenly found this to be an area of immediate need. Vincent Jackson is an elite receiver, but he is 31 years old and the trade of Mike Williams in the offseason created a void. There may be no other receiver in this year's draft that can do as much damage deep down the field as Evans. Manziel often threw up jump ball-type passes that his receiver had to fight for to bring down. Evans won almost every one of those battles over the last couple of years and his stock just keeps on rising … as it should. He fits a need and, with his talent, this isn't a reach at all.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida. The biggest knock on Bortles is that he is viewed as a player who will need a year or so to develop. Given the Vikings' situation (re-signing Matt Cassel in the offseason), there won't be an immediate need for Bortles to take over the starting job. Given his prototype measurables, Bortles has the requisite skill set to become a starter and potentially develop into an elite prospect. The fly in the ointment here could be Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald, a fast riser up a lot of draft boards. He is the biggest interior line difference-maker available and could give the Vikings reason to take him or make a trade to a team looking to land him for themselves. In a year when the value of quarterbacks is up for debate, Bortles looks like a good fit with the Vikings given their situation and could be the franchise QB the Vikings have been looking since Brett Favre limped off into the Mississippi sunset.
9. Buffalo Bills – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan. The Bills have several needs, including wide receiver, safety and linebacker, but landing a bookend offensive tackle that can be counted on for the next decade has to be viewed as a priority. Cordy Glenn has been playing left tackle, but ideally is suited to play on the right side. With Lewan plugged in at left tackle and Glenn moved to the right side, the Bills could have a dominant tackle tandem that could be together for the rest of the decade and give the Buffalo offense a foundation from which to build.
10. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State. The only question here would seem to be whether the Lions are going to take a cornerback or a safety with this pick. They will have their choice, which could end up bring safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Detroit. But Dennard is the most versatile cornerback in the draft and the Lions are in need of help on the back end of the defense. There isn't a lead-pipe lock in this group, but the Lions have enough component parts in place to be a playoff team. Without strengthening the secondary, the Lions will continue to struggle.
11. Tennessee Titans – Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State. At the 11th pick of the draft, the Titans have their choice of cornerbacks in the draft. Considering that the team has lost former shutdown corners Cortland Finnegan and Alterraun Verner, the need is there. Whether the Titans see Gilbert, Darqueze Dennard, Jason Verrett or Bradley Roby as the player they covet, they have their pick and should use it here.
12. New York Giants – Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina. The Giants know the difference a playmaking tight end can have in their offense. When he was healthy, Jeremy Shockey was as explosive as any tight end in the league. The degeneration of the position as something other than a glorified blocker hit bottom when the G-Men released Brandon Myers. Ebron is like a wide receiver in the mold of recent Patriots vintage. He lines up in the slot. He lines up wide. Simply, he can create mismatches. With Hakeem Nicks and a slew of No. 3 or 4 receivers behind Victor Cruz, an impact tight end downfield could do the most benefit for a struggling offense.
13. St. Louis Rams – HaHa Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama. The Rams brought in Gregg Williams to coach the defense and he will surely be aggressive in what he's planning to accomplish in the St. Louis. With Seattle and San Francisco leading the pack in the NFC West, playmaking defenders are going to be critical if St. Louis wants to try to compete on their level. Clinton-Dix is a rare playmaker who will be able to start from Day One and give the Rams another piece to the puzzle. Wide receiver is a possibility here, but Clinton-Dix is simply too good to pass up at this point.
14. Chicago Bears—Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt. The Bears spent a ton of cash on improving at defensive end – signing Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Yoing, but have done nothing to replace Henry Melton and Corey Wootton. Donald is a fast-rising prospect who, despite being a bit undersized for a prototype NFL defensive tackle, has the speed and burst to blow up plays. With offensive lines concerned with what Allen and Houston will be bringing from the edge, a burst player like Donald could be an ideal complement in the middle – forcing the quarterback into the path of the oncoming ends. He doesn't fit all defenses, but looks to be a decent fit with Chicago.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech. The Steelers have a need at cornerback and with the rest of the divisional teams improving their own passing games, that weakness would appear to be even more pronounced. While there are a couple of corners some teams might have rated higher, the Steelers have a history of developing big, physical CBs and that is in line with the type of player they have a history of taking. Wide receiver could be an option here, but the Steelers can't let their defense continue to age without young replacement players.
16. Dallas Cowboys – Calvin Pryor, S, Florida State. The Cowboys found themselves in salary cap hell in the offseason and had to shed some big contracts just to get under the cap. The biggest issue that has kept Dallas out of the playoffs over the last few years has been inconsistency on defense and poor play from their safeties. Pryor has the skill and playmaking ability to immediately step into the starting lineup and give Dallas an upgrade in the secondary. Don't be surprised if Dallas inquires about trading up to land DT Aaron Donald, but if he's off the board, there isn't a defensive lineman worthy of selection here that can make the type of immediate impact that Pryor can, which makes him a natural fit in an area of need.
17. Baltimore Ravens – C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama. If not for an extensive injury history, Mosley would have been off the board in the top 10. The Ravens have always had a defense predicated on athletic, game-changing linebackers to make their 3-4 defense work. When healthy, it's hard to deny that Mosley is a dominant player – which is saying something considering he played in the SEC. G.M. Ozzie Newsome rarely takes a misstep on draft weekend and, if Mosley checks out medically, he has the ability to be a Pro Bowl regular and another draft-day gift for the Ravens and their fans.
18. New York Jets – Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU. The Jets signed Eric Decker and overrated Jacoby Ford, but Decker is ideally a No. 2 receiver being paid No. 1 money and, while Ford has potential, he's never been a regular contributor to an offense. However, all that they are missing to being worth what they're being paid is to have a player who can stretch the field vertically. Stephen Hill has speed, but he's been a bust do date. Beckham ran a 4.43 40 at the Combine and set himself apart. It's a lot to ask a rookie to be a major contributor, but, his role would be similar to what Randy Moss had when he came to Minnesota – not comparing Beckham specifically to Moss' rare talent. His job is to take two players with him and catch passes when only one goes with him. He may only catch 30 or 40 passes, but he could be the offensive MVP.
19. Miami Dolphins—Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame. The Dolphins may not seem like a logical candidate here because they signed Branden Albert to a huge contract, but the Miami O-line was a mess last year even before the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin bullying scandal blew up. Neither of them will be back, nor will Bryant McKinnie, so there is still a need for upgrades on the line. Martin can play right tackle and potentially could be dominant at guard. If Ryan Tannehill is going to succeed, he needs better protection and run blocking than he got from his rag-tag O-line last year and Martin could be a big piece of that puzzle.
20. Arizona Cardinals – Anthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA. There is a growing sentiment that the Cardinals may look at a QB here because Carson Palmer will be 35 this year, but the depth of the QB position could allow the Cards to wait until the second or third round to grab a quarterback of the future. The Cardinals need to keep pace with the Seahawks and 49ers and can't use a first-round pick on a player who likely won't see the field as a rookie. The Cardinals have needs at both OLB and a pass rusher and Barr can do both. An effective blitzer and with the agility, quick-twitch movement skills and body control to take backs and tight ends in coverage, he could fill a big void and be a Day 1 starter. The fans may want someone like Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr, but the war room generals are likely going to be interested in getting someone on the field who can make an immediate splash.
21. Green Bay Packers – Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State. The type of player who looks like a glove fit for the Packers defense, he can line up next to A.J. Hawk in the second level of the Green Bay defense and make an immediate impact. The Packers have needs at receiver with the losses they've had over the last couple seasons (Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jermichael Finley), but the receiver class is deep this year and the linebacker corps has far less depth. Shazier has the classic sideline-to-sideline pursuit ability and eats, sleeps and breathes football 24/7. He's just the type of player that has historically thrived in Green Bay.
22. Philadelphia Eagles – Marqise Lee, WR, USC. The Eagles have been in turmoil in their receiving corps this offseason. They cut loose DeSean Jackson. They re-signed Riley Cooper, who made more headlines for racist remarks than on-field accomplishments last year, and Jeremy Maclin, who is coming off ACL surgery. With third-down security blanket Jason Avant also gone, the Eagles have brought nobody in from the outside to help and have lost two key components that pre-dated Chip Kelly. They need a player who can blow the lid off the top of a defense and Lee comes with that pedigree. The pinball offense in Philly needs a deep threat and Lee fits.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State. For reasons unknown to the rest of the civilized world, the Chiefs believe Dwayne Bowe can be a dominant player. He has been overpaid to be a No. 1 receiver, but he is only successful if he has someone clearing out the middle of the defense. Cooks can do that, likely more times clearing a path for Bowe to catch an intermediate pass. He is an ideal addition because he doesn't have to catch 60 passes to be successful. If he's a big-hitter and Bowe catches 90 passes, it's been a success.
24. Cincinnati Bengals—Jason Verrett, CB, TCU. Leon Hall turned 30 in December and has torn his Achilles twice in the last three year and is a free agent. Terence Newman and Pac Man Jones are both nearing the end of their NFL ride as well. Even if the Bengals keep the band together for another season, they need an infusion of youth in the secondary, especially in a division that already has strong-armed Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger in the mix and Cleveland likely to add another young gun to the division.
25. San Diego Chargers—Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State. When inconsistent veteran Richard Marshall was your best corner, there is clearly a need to be addressed—perhaps both in free agency and the draft. If San Diego is going to build on its surprising late-season run to the playoffs (in which they still finished third in their four-team division), upgrading the secondary to compete with Peyton Manning and Denver will be a top priority.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis) – Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State. The Browns used their own first-round pick to select Johnny Manziel and now they give him a third viable weapon to go along with WR Josh Gordon and TE Jordan Cameron. In other years, Benjamin may have been the first or second wide receiver coming off the board, but in the talent-laden WR class of 2014, he's just another guy on the list. A cornerback to potentially line up opposite Joe Haden is a distinct possibility, but, if the Browns are going to be aggressive with drafting Manziel, they double down and give him a young target to grow along with.
27. New Orleans Saints – Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana. Few players have made such a significant jump over the last couple of months as Latimer, who has excellent speed and the ability to make things happen after the catch. While, as always, the Saints have needs on defense, New Orleans has proved it can win consistently on the strength of an oppressive offense and serviceable defense. The Saints won't have Darren Sproles or Lance Moore, both of whom were important pieces in the puzzle for the New Orleans offense. The success of the team still runs through Drew Brees and he needs an impact player. Latimer could pay early dividends with his big-play ability.
28. Carolina Panthers – Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia. Here is where the fall of the draft comes into play. The Panthers could use a playmaking wide receiver, but anyone we would associate with this pick is gone – unless Carolina is willing to reach. Carolina has a bigger problem than replacing Steve Smith. Offensive linemen retired in record numbers. From the end of last season, the Panthers haven't signed a name free agent offensive lineman. They have lost four, including left tackle Jordan Gross. We have Cyrus Kouandjio of Alabama rated higher, but, given the depletion of depth on the O-line, Moses is a safer pick that can be counted on to fill a vital role.
29. New England Patriots – Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame. The rich just get richer. When scouts look at Nix, they are asked to compare him to someone. Vince Wilfork is one who comparisons are made to at the same stage of their development. Wilfork, a stud in the Patriots defense, is coming off a torn Achilles and his future is far from certain. Nix is almost surely going to an AFC power. If he makes it past Pittsburgh and Baltimore, New England won't repeat that mistake. In the Belichick Manifesto, Nix could be a Pro Bowler for years because he fits the system.
30. San Francisco 49ers – Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota. The 49ers took a lot of hits in free agency, but don't have many screaming needs. Hageman is a player with a lot of solid attributes. While he isn't dominant in any phase of his game, he doesn't have any glaring weaknesses and could quickly evolve into a player who is more than just a rotational guy in the 49ers system. Whether he goes perhaps a pick earlier to New England or a pick later to Denver, he has all the tools that can be developed to become a very solid pro that will see the field early on.
31. Denver Broncos – Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA. The Broncos could use some help in the secondary, but their primary offseason loss was at guard, where Zane Beadles moved on in free agency and created a hole on the offensive line. With Peyton Manning probably playing in his last season, the Broncos will be hard-pressed keeping him protected and upright. For a team expecting to return to the Super Bowl and finish the job this year, adding an immediate replacement starter in Su'a-Filo that can help accomplish that job.
32. Seattle Seahawks – Stephon Tuitt, DE/DT, Notre Dame. The champs took a lot of hits in free agency and, while none of them were devastating, they did take a significant toll on depth. Tuitt is a country-strong player who can set the edge on the outside on play with a hand in the dirt on the inside. His versatility is a big plus and he's the type of guy that Pete Carroll historically has liked because he can play different roles depending on down and distance. There may be teams looking for a quarterback that come calling to get back into the round and beat the anticipated rush on Friday, but, if they stay here, the Seahawks will be happy if Tuitt is still available.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Mock draft: Round 1, Final Version
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