The New Year signals a perfect time to look ahead to the 2014 NFL Draft. May 8 is not very far away, so it is time to take the first look at the first round.
2014 is officially here, what better time than now to forget the year that was and look ahead to 2014, The 2014 Draft that is.
The draft is just a few months away and the college football season is finishing their bowl games, soon the NFL Combine and pro days will be upon us. With that being said, lets take a look at the first mock for the 2014 draft.
1) Houston Texans: 2013 Record - 2-14
Teddy Bridgewater - QB - Louisville
The Texans took a huge fall from grace in 2013. They lost Arian Foster early in the year and never quite recovered. The biggest change to the Texans however, was the play of Matt Schaub. Schaub fell out of the starters role which prompted Case Keenum to start eight games. That makes Bridgewater an obvious pick for Houston.
Bridgewater comes from a pro-style offense at Louisville where he showed all the skills that teams look for in a "franchise" quarterback. A strong arm, good accuracy, good footwork and great athleticism. Although Bridgewater is so athletic, he prefers to stay in the pocket, which is perfect for the system that new head coach and offensive specialist Bill O'Brien will implement.
2) St. Louis Rams (From Washington Redskins - 3-13): 2013 Record - 7-9
Jake Matthews - OL - Texas A&M
The Rams acquired this pick from Washington in the Robert Griffin III trade, and it is a perfect spot for the Rams to acquire even more picks with another trade to a team looking to move up and grab Jadeveon Clowney.
However if the Rams stay put they can start to fortify an offensive line that will likely be without Jake Long, who tore his ACL and MCL in December. Matthews has the physical build and skill set to become a starting left tackle in the NFL. He has great athleticism, makes great blocks in both run and pass plays and uses his long arms to keep opposing defensive ends away from his quarterback. Although he has only played one season at left tackle, Matthews is still the top tackle of this draft and a great pick for St. Louis.
3) Jacksonville Jaguars: 2013 Record 4-12
Jadeveon Clowney - DL - South Carolina
There was a point in time where it was inconceivable that Jadeveon Clowney would go anywhere but number one overall. For many people that is a long way away as Clowney was not as dominant as expected in 2013 as he struggled through injuries and what many are calling a lack of motivation.
However, Clowney is still the best defensive player in the draft (for this writer). He will help a defense that only managed 31 sacks in 2013. His rare combination of size, speed and pass rush moves allow him to dominate opposing tackles. He plays well against the run and is a great pass rusher. There are some off-field issues that have come about recently, but Clowney is still worth a top-3 pick.
If there is another team that moves up in a trade with St. Louis at number two, expect Jacksonville to address their quarterback problems with local product Blake Bortles.
4) Cleveland Browns: 2013 Record 4-12
Johnny Manziel - QB - Texas A&M
A report from Peter King has said that the Browns' leadership is quite fond of the Texas A&M quarterback. After firing Rob Chudzinski on the final day of the regular season, the Browns have been linked to coaches that have "Manziel-friendly" offenses, such as Josh McDaniels of the New England Patriots.
Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, is extremely athletic and has a great running ability and ability to keep passing plays alive with his legs. Manziel also showed more toughness than ever before in 2013 when fighting off a knee injury. Manziel has also improved his short and intermediate passing game, increasing to 69.1% in 2013.
However there are still questions about Manziel's off-field issues and about his size. Although listed at 6-1, it is believed that Manziel will come in under that at official events. But even with all the questions, Manziel could be the new face of the Cleveland Browns.
5) Oakland Raiders: 2013 Record - 4-12
Blake Bortles - QB - UCF
The Raiders are still trying to work their way back from the depths of the NFL, and getting a quarterback would be a big step in the right direction. Bortles has the size of a great pocket passer, but also has very good athletic ability. He made huge strides in terms of accuracy, jumping from 62.9% in 2012 to 68.1% in 2013. He also started to show an increased ability in reading defenses and making throws to his second and third options.
6) Atlanta Falcons: 2013 Record - 4-12
Gregory Robinson - OL - Auburn
Robinson has become an instant star on the draft board since declaring early. He is a dominant run blocker, which will help the Falcons rushing attack, which finished last in the NFL with just 77.9 yards per game. Robinson is an immediate upgrade from Sam Baker and will help bolster a line that allowed 44 sacks in 2013.
The Falcons could also be players to try to move up to get Jadeveon Clowney to help their pass rush, but will likely have to give up too much to make it happen after struggling with depth problems in 2013.
7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2013 Record 4-12
Sammy Watkins - WR - Clemson
The Buccaneers might have found their quarterback of the future in Mike Glennon in the 2012 draft. Now they get a chance to stock up on weapons for him. Watkins is an athletic freak with a very good skill set. He runs pretty good routes but excels on deep routes due to his sprinter-speed.
Adding Watkins would open up more opportunities for Vincent Jackson on the other side as well as opening some running lanes for Doug Martin inside.
8) Minnesota Vikings: 2013 Record - 5-10-1
Derek Carr - QB - Fresno State
Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, Josh Freeman; none of these options at quarterback did any good for the Vikings in 2013. With a fresh start at coach, the Vikings should go fresh at quarterback as well, and Carr is a great way to start.
A big arm, good feet and a pocket presence that has improved drastically in 2013. Carr can make every throw, but does not fall back on his arm strength, but rather makes very good decisions. Has all the tools needed to take some of the load off of Adrian Peterson.
9) Buffalo Bills: 2013 Record - 6-10
C.J. Mosley - LB - Alabama
The Bills get a starting linebacker for the second consecutive year as Mosley will join 2012 draft pick Kiko Alonzo. Mosley has a well-rounded game, playing the run and the pass at an elite level. Mosley comes from a pro-style defense at Alabama and will add youth as well as even more toughness to a very good front-7.
10) Detroit Lions: 2013 Record - 7-9
Darqueze Dennard - DB - Michigan St.
The Lions defense has been known for their front-7 in recent years, now they will look just down the road to solidify their defensive backfield with Dennard. He has quick hips and the ability to run with receivers but he is not afraid to play physical at the line of scrimmage. He also has very good ball skills.
With the Lions starting with a new coaching staff in 2014, Dennard could be the key to putting the defense "over the top".
11) Tennessee Titans: 2013 Record - 7-9
Khalil Mack - LB - Buffalo
Mack adds great versatility to the Titans defense. A very good pass rusher who can also play the pass, Mack looks like he can do it all. Some questions will arise about how well he will play against elite competition, but his size and speed combined with his great instincts and quick decision making make Mack a great addition to the Titans.
12) New York Giants: 2013 Record - 7-9
Mike Evans - WR - Texas A&M
The Giants offense was lack-luster this season. Hakeem Nicks was not the playmaker the Giants needed and Victor Cruz struggled through injuries and a down year for Eli Manning. With Nicks likely out of New York, Evans will slide in as a legitimate deep threat for Manning.
Evans is a huge wide receiver with great hands and very good athletic ability. He does a great job fighting for the ball and he also high-points the ball very well. His size allows him to go over smaller defenders and his strong hands allow him to rip the ball away. He could help Manning rebound after a terrible 2013.
13) St. Louis Rams: 2013 Record - 7-9
HaHa Clinton-Dix - DB - Alabama
The Rams suers up their offensive line with their first pick and they turn to the defense with the second pick of the first round. Clinton-Dix is coming off knee surgery so it will be huge that he runs well at his workouts, but when he is healthy he is a big, physical safety that commands respect over the middle. He has good athletic ability and plays the ball very well.
Clinton-Dix also plays with a bit of an edge, which is the perfect fit for Jeff Fisher's ultra aggressive defensive backfield.
14) Chicago Bears: 2013 Record - 8-8
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu - DB - Oregon
Ekpre-Olomu has been rumored to be returning to Oregon, then he was not but no decision has been made yet. If he does come out he is the perfect fit to help the Bears get younger and more athletic on defense. He has good size, great athleticism and very good ball skills. He is also good in run help.
With Charles "Peanut" Tillman still in chicago, Ekpre-Olomu could not ask for a better home to grow while still getting playing time.
15) Pittsburgh Steelers: 2013 Record - 8-8
Louis Nix III - DL - Notre Dame
The Steelers defense was only a piece or two away from being a typical Pittsburgh defense in 2013, adding Nix could put them over the top. A huge force in the middle, Nix would be the perfect fit for the Steelers defense. He is big but still athletic and gets great push up the middle. He can defend the run and attack in pass rushing situations.
16) Baltimore Ravens (Pending Coin Flip): 2013 Record - 8-8
Cyrus Kouandjio - OL - Alabama
The Ravens offensive line could uses a boost, especially in the run game after a down year. Kouandjio is a true road grater with great run blocking ability, but still has enough agility to be a force pass blocking. If the Ravens land Kouandjio, it could be the piece that helps Ray Rice and Joe Flacco get back to their Super Bowl form.
17) Dallas Cowboys (Pending Coin Flip): 2013 Record - 8-8
Kony Ealy - DE - Missouri
Ealy would be a great depth pick for the Cowboys as George Selvie continues to grow as a defensive end and DeMarcus Ware requires a bit more of a break as he ages. Ealy has a ton of potential for growth, both physically and as a player but he is a physical player who has good burst off the line of scrimmage. He struggles at times defending the run, he can improve with good coaching.
18) New York Jets: 2013 Record - 8-8
Marqise Lee - WR - USC
Geno Smith showed growth at times during the 2013 season, but lacked a consistent weapon on the outside. The Jets have a great chance to remedy that by selecting Lee. Lee has decent size but possesses breakaway speed. He also runs good routes and is extremely dangerous in the open field. Lee is also a very good return man, helping the Jets in another area that they need help with.
With the Jets coaching staff returning, the addition of Lee could be the right piece to help solidify Smith as a starting quarterback in the NFL.
19) Miami Dolphins: 2013 Record - 8-8
Taylor Lewan - OL - Michigan
The problems along the Dolphins offensive line in 2013 do not need to be revisited, but rather fixed. Adding Lewan should help that. He has good size and long arms that allows him to keep defenders at bay. Lewan is also very aggressive in the run game.
The Dolphins have also had luck in the past drafting a Michigan tackle and will look to duplicate the success of Jake Long with Lewan.
20) Arizona Cardinals: 2013 Record - 10-6
Anthony Barr - LB - UCLA
Barr is the biggest faller in this year's draft. Not for a lack of talent but rather a lack of fit. The Cardinals get the steal of the draft. Barr is an athletic specimen with an incredibly high ceiling. He is fast and is explosive off the edge. He will add to an improved pass rush and help the Cardinals, who had a resurgent season under Bruce Arians.
21) Green Bay Packers: 2013 Record - 8-7-1
Jace Amaro - TE - Texas Tech
The Packers offense has a ton of weapons, but has been missing a tight end for a few years now. Amaro will fit in perfectly and be a good middle of the field threat for Aaron Rodgers. He is a very good pass catcher with very good athleticism. He also is better than expected as a blocker, making him an ideal all-around tight end.
22) San Diego Chargers: 2013 Record - 9-7
Cameron Erving - OL - Florida State
The Chargers sured up the right side of their line in the 2013 draft with D.J. Fluker, in 2014 they do the same to the left side by adding Erving. Another big, dominating blocker who played in a pro-style offense. He also has surprising athleticism, that was on display blocking for Jameis Winston in 2013.
23) Philadelphia Eagles: 2013 Record - 10-6
RaShede Hageman - DL - Minnesota
The Eagles have tried multiple times to get a defensive tackle that can get pressure inside while being stout against the run. They try again by offing Hagerman, who has shown elite level talent in flashes. He gets great interior pass rush and uses his hands extremely well. He can also hold his own in the run game.
24) Kansas City Chiefs: 2013 Record - 11-5
Allen Robinson - WR - Penn State
The Chiefs offense is looked at as the one problem that is keeping them from being a championship contender. Adding a solid receiver like Robinson will help spread out opposing defenses and add another dimension to their offense. Robinson is a true big-play receiver who has breakaway speed and runs very good routes. Robinson does a great job high-pointing the ball and adds a huge red zone threat to an offense that could use the offensive punch.
25) Cincinnati Bengals: 2013 Record - 11-5
Justin Gilbert - CB - Oklahoma State
Gilbert is a big, experienced cornerback that can help add depth to a Bengals defensive backfield that had a good amount of inconsistency in 2013. Gilbert is extremely athletic which allows him to cover both inside and outside receivers. He does not get beat often but his recovery speed in the rare occasion he does is fantastic.
26) Cleveland Browns (From Indianapolis Colts: 11-5): 2013 Record 4-12
Kelvin Benjamin - WR - Florida State
The Browns got their quarterback earlier in the first round, now they will make sure he is surrounded with talent. Benjamin is a great complement to Josh Gordon. He has the size, speed and ball skills that would perfectly fit with Johnny Manziel's game.
27) New Orleans Saints: 2013 Record 11-5
Ryan Shazier - LB - Ohio State
The Saints need an upgrade at linebacker and with Shazier on the board, they will get their man. Shazier is undersized but ultra-productive. He has good speed and deceptive strength. He does a good job getting depth in pass coverage but also does a good job in pass rushing situations.
28) New England Patriots: 2013 Record - 12-4
David Yankey - OL - Stanford
The Patriots offensive line is generally the strong point of their offense, however this year they were generally a middle of the pack line. With stalwart Logan Mankins on the left, the Patriots add another very good guard to the right side with Yankey. He is a big, dominating run blocker with a ton of experience in pro-style offenses. He is also a very good pass blocker who uses his hands extremely well.
29) San Francisco 49ers: 2013 Record - 12-4
Stephon Tuitt - DL - Notre Dame
For the 49ers, defense is always the focal point. With Justin Smith starting to get older (even though he still plays at an extremely high level) Tuitt is a great heir-apparent. A big, strong, physical defensive lineman, Tuitt is the perfect fit into the 49ers scheme. He is strong at the point of attack and has good athleticism that allows him to defeat opposing linemen.
30) Carolina Panthers: 2013 Record - 12-4
Jason Verrett - DB - TCU
The front seven of the Panthers might be the best in the NFL, but their back four are in need of a boost. Verrett will provide an edge that has not been in the Panthers defensive backfield in a while. He is undersized but extremely physical and has very good coverage skills. He is not afraid to fill in run coverage either, a great fit for Ron Rivera's defensive style.
31) Denver Broncos: 2013 Record - 13-3
Trent Murphy - DL - Stanford
Murphy is an overlooked defensive end who will turn some heads when he is in the NFL. He has the size and physicality to excel in the NFL. He was a standout on a very good defense at Stanford and will add a new element to Denver's defense, which struggled at times when Von Miller was not on the field. Murphy does a very good job defending the run but also provides a good pass rush element.
32) Seattle Seahawks: 2013 Record - 13-3
Zach Martin - OL - Notre Dame
The Seahawks had a great 2013 with few flaws to their team. However one of the biggest ones could be interior line play. Adding Martin will fix that. He is yet another big, physical lineman to come off the board. He is a dominating run blocker who will help an already potent rushing attack. He uses his hands well in both run and pass blocking and will excel in both areas.
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