Once again, it is time for another 2014 NFL Mock Draft here at NPC:
1. Houston Texans
Defensive End, South Carolina
The addition of Clowney to a pass-rushing mix of J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus would give Houston a formidable and young foursome to collapse opposing pockets. Passing up Clowney (6’5″ 274 lbs.) could be tough for a defense that tied for the second-fewest sacks in the league last fall. Although the former Gamecock was hampered by injuries last fall, his size, strength and ridiculous athleticism could make him one of the league’s best pass-rushers in the near future.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)
Wide Receiver, Clemson
I have a hard time believing that St. Louis’ brass will not try to trade down in round one. Of course, it could also be in the Rams’ best interests to acquire a game-breaking wide receiver for Sam Bradford with one of their first round selections. Like his former college teammate DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins is a well-built wide receiver (6’1″ 205 lbs.) who can threaten defenses on short, intermediate and deep routes. The addition of Watkins would give the Rams’ offense two speedsters at wide receiver (Tavon Austin) and also help to open up their stagnant passing game.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Quarterback, Central Florida
Although many are high on Teddy Bridgewater at the moment, I believe that Blake Bortles could rise to the top of draft boards around the league at the quarterback position. Bortles possesses a large frame (6’3″ 230 lbs.), strong arm and is surprisingly mobile. Despite the fact that his mechanics and footwork could use some improvement, his skill-set could make him an immediate upgrade over Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne.
4. Cleveland Browns
Quarterback, Texas A&M
Even though Brian Hoyer performed well during his short stint as a starter, Cleveland’s new coaching staff could have no allegiance to him. Thus, it might behoove the Browns to find a long-term replacement at the quarterback spot. Johnny Manziel is reportedly on Cleveland’s wish list, and the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner could be the type of exciting and athletic player the Browns need at the quarterback position. As long as Manziel’s lack of size (6′ 210 lbs.) and off-field background do not trouble teams, he should be a hot commodity at the top of the first round.
5. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders will be hard-pressed to pass on a quarterback if one falls to number five, and I am sure that they will be thrilled if Teddy Bridgewater is available. The somewhat slender signal-caller (6’2″ 205 lbs.) is probably the most pro-ready quarterback in this draft class in terms of his mechanics and knowledge of a pro-style offense. As long as teams aren’t scared off by Bridgewater’s frame he will likely be a top five draft pick.
6. Atlanta Falcons
Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
Atlanta invested a boatload of money in Matt Ryan last offseason, so protecting him will be of the utmost importance during the prime of his career. Ryan had the tar beat out of him last fall, and the Falcons need to upgrade their offensive line. Although Atlanta’s brass like to wheel-and-deal in the first round, I am sure that they would be thrilled if Jake Matthews fell to them at number six overall. Although Matthews might be on the lighter side (6’5″ 305 lbs.), he is a technically sound tackle who plays with great leverage and possesses fantastic fundamentals.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay could stand to improve their pass rush and add a playmaker next to Lavonte David on the defensive side of the ball. If they cannot trade up for the likes of Jadeveon Clowney, then they could still be in luck if Anthony Barr falls to them in the first round. Although Barr is raw and rather inexperienced as a linebacker (only two seasons at the position in college), his size (6’4″ 248 lbs.), strength and productivity at the college level will entice some pass-rush needy teams to take a chance on him.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Quarterback, Fresno State
Minnesota has an absolute dumpster fire at the quarterback position. While Matt Cassel is a solid backup, Josh Freeman is a joke and Christian Ponder puts zero zip on the ball. The Vikings’ new coaching staff should try to upgrade the position during the offseason, and they could be inclined to take Derek Carr if he is available. Questions remain about Carr’s (6’2″ 215 lbs.) footwork and ability to transition to a pro-style offense, the rocket-armed signal-caller enjoyed a fantastic career at Fresno State and did an impressive job during Senior Bowl week.
9. Buffalo Bills
Wide Receiver, Texas A&M
EJ Manuel needs more weapons in the passing game and a large target like Mike Evans (6’5″ 225 lbs.) could be exactly what the young quarterback needs during the coming seasons. Adding a play-maker like Evans to a receiving corps already populated by Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin would give Manuel a quartet of weapons to find through the air. Buffalo had the 28th ranked passing offense (yards) last fall, and that will need to change as soon as possible.
10. Detroit Lions
Cornerback, Oklahoma State
Detroit’s secondary folded like origami down the stretch last fall. To make their back-seven as impressive as their front-four rotation, the Lions must upgrade their secondary. Justin Gilbert should steadily rise up draft boards around the league as the offseason transpires. The former Oklahoma State star has the size (6′ 200 lbs.) and athleticism to be a terrific cover-corner at the professional level, and his kick returning skills are only an added bonus.
11. Tennessee Titans
With Ray Horton in town, the Titans will be switching to a 3-4 defensive scheme. To improve their pass-rush, I am sure that they would jump at the chance to take Khalil Mack with their first round selection. The long-armed and athletic Mack (6’3″ 248 lbs.) has the tools to be a nightmare off of the edge, and the linebacker set the NCAA career-record for tackles for loss last year.
12. New York Giants
Keith Rivers and Jon Beason will both be free agents this March. New York needs to address their linebacker corps soon. One of the best all-around inside linebackers to emerge in the draft in recent season, Mosley will be a solid fit on whichever team ultimately drafts him. The former Alabama linebacker is stout (6’2″ 232 lbs.) and instinctive enough to succeed against the run, and his pass-coverage skills are top-notch for a player at his position.
13. St. Louis Rams
Offensive Tackle, Auburn
Jake Long was injured down the stretch last season, and Roger Saffold will be a free agent this March. To hedge their bets, the Rams would be wise to take an offensive tackle with one of their first round selections. The massive (6’5″ 320 lbs.) Greg Robinson could be the type of road-grading tackle the Rams want to pair with Long, Saffold or both. Plus, it would not hurt for the team to upgrade the offensive line during Sam Bradford’s contract season either.
14. Chicago Bears
Cornerback, Michigan State
Charles Tillman will turn 33 at the end of February, and the Bears could stand to use some depth and a future starter at cornerback like Darqueze Dennard. The 2013 Jim Thorpe Award winner (5’11″ 197 lbs.) might not possess the type of straight-line speed scouts covet, but his tremendous technique, physical play and willingness to mix things up against the run make him a prospect with tremendous value in the mid-late first round.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Wide Receiver, Southern California
Many believe that the Steelers will try to target a larger-framed pass-catcher in this May’s draft. However, the answer to their ‘tall receiver question’ could be on their roster in the form of Derek Moye or Justin Brown. If that is the case, the team’s brass could elect to find a speedy and game-breaking wide receiver to replace Emmanuel Sanders if the veteran departs as a free agent. Although Marqise Lee battled injuries last fall, the former Southern California Trojan enjoyed a fantastic three-year career at the school. The combination of Lee and Antonio Brown would give the Steelers plenty of speed on the edges so the middle of the field can be exploited by the likes of Jerricho Cotchery, Heath Miller and Markus Wheaton.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Offensive Tackle, Michigan
Michael Oher could be leave as a free agent this spring, and the Ravens might be in the market for both left and right tackles if they are unable to ink Eugene Monroe to a long-term deal as well. Even if they are able to keep Monroe, Taylor Lewan could represent an enormous upgrade at the right tackle position. Although Lewan went through an up-and-down senior campaign, the former Wolverine will still be a highly coveted prospect this spring. Lewan’s frame (6’7″ 315 lbs.), strength and nastiness should make him an asset in the offensive trenches.
17. Dallas Cowboys
Louis Nix III
Defensive Tackle, Notre Dame
Dallas is sticking with the 4-3 and they will need to find a stout defensive tackle who can clog the A-Gaps, shoot them to make plays so they can free up their edge rushers and linebackers. Although many project Nix III (6’2″ 345 lbs.) to be a classic zero-technique who could work best in a 3-4 defensive scheme, the defensive tackles quickness and gap-clogging ability could make him a solid fit as a one-technique at the pro level as well.
18. New York Jets
Tight End, North Carolina
Regardless of whom New York’s quarterback is in 2014, they will need to find a competent tight end to target in the passing game. Eric Ebron (6’4″ 245 lbs.) has the physical tools to become a fantastic tight end at the professional level, and his athleticism and speed could help him turn into a seam-stretching and vertical threat for whichever team drafts him. Although his blocking is far from stellar, his willingness to help which was illustrated on tape showed that he could improve greatly in that area with the proper coaching.
19. Miami Dolphins
Defensive Tackle, Florida State
Randy Starks and Paul Soliai are both headed for free agency this offseason. Even if the team can ink one of them to another deal, both players are in their thirties so the Dolphins’ brass could try to find their replacements this spring. Although questions remain about Timmy Jernigan’s motor, no one can deny the type of force the former Seminole can be along the interior of a defensive line. The stout defensive tackle (6’2″ 298 lbs.) has the potential to help one of the league’s worst defenses (24th in rushing yards per game) from last season.
20. Arizona Cardinals
Tight End, Texas Tech
Although the Cardinals have plenty of terrific wide receivers, they lack a truly dangerous tight end. If Arizona’s offense added a play-making tight end like Jace Amaro, their offense could be a lethal force in the NFC. A Jimmy Graham-framed (6’5″ 260 lbs.) threat who can line up in the slot or even outside the numbers, Amaro could be exactly what the Cardinals need to make the postseason.
21. Green Bay Packers
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Free Safety, Alabama
Green Bay’s defense needs a ball-hawking safety. If Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (6’1″ 208 lbs.) falls past Pittsburgh at number 15, then he could fall right into the laps of the Packers at number 21 in the first round. The former Alabama safety would give Green Bay’s young secondary a large boost, and his physical nature and ability to cover large amounts of ground could make him a solid fit in Dom Capers’ defense.
22. Philadelphia Eagles
Defensive End, Missouri
The Eagles only ranked 20th last season in sacks (37), and their front office could be looking to bolster their outside pass rush. Trent Cole will turn 32 this fall, Brandon Graham has been a first round bust and an edge rusher like Kony Ealy (6’5″ 275 lbs.) could be a logical pickup if he fell to Philadelphia in round one. Like Aldon Smith, the former Missouri Tiger could be a situational pass-rusher early on before he becomes a full-time starter at outside linebacker.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
Free Safety, Louisville
Kansas City needs massive upgrades in their secondary after their complete and total collapse in the wild card game against the Colts. Pryor is a large (6’2″ 208 lbs.) and physical safety who would compliment Eric Berry very well on the back-end of the Chiefs’ defense. In the pass-happy AFC, Kansas City will need all of the reinforcements they can acquire over the coming years. Moreover, they will need to since they play in a division which features Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
Offensive Tackle, Alabama
Starting left tackle Anthony Collins could be headed for a lucrative free agent contract this spring. If Collins leaves, then the Bengals might be weary about moving current left guard and former starter at left tackle, Andrew Whitworth, back to the blind-side. Despite Kouandjio’s poor performance against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, the former Alabama offensive tackle would be a solid pick from a value standpoint at number 24 overall. Kouandjio (6’5″ 310 lbs.) was a two-year starter for the Crimson Tide and at the very least could develop into a solid right tackle at the pro level if he struggles on the left side.
25. San Diego Chargers
Richard Marshall is an impending free agent, so it would be a great idea if the Chargers looked in the direction of a cornerback in round one if an offensive tackle did not fall to them. Although a knee injury slowed him for much of the 2013 season, Marcus Roberson is one of a trio of former Gator cornerbacks who could hear his name selected on the first or second days of the draft. Well-built cornerbacks with good man-coverage skills are difficult to find, and San Diego’s defense will need at least a couple of them if they wish to rise to the top of their division.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis)
Wide Receiver, Florida State
Outside of Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, the Browns have little to speak of in terms of passing game weapons. Although he is raw in terms of route running and his hands are less than consistent, Benjamin’s size (6’5″ 235 lbs.), speed and play-making ability will make teams salivate over him at the NFL Scouting Combine. If a project like Cordarrelle Patterson went near the end of the first round last year, then I see no reason why Benjamin will drop into round two this spring.
27. New Orleans Saints
Outside Linebacker, Auburn
New Orleans’ pass-rush is already stout in the trenches with the likes of Cameron Jordan. If Rob Ryan wants to make his linemen even more lethal, then he had better upgrade his personnel at outside linebacker. Even with Victor Butler returning, New Orleans could use another edge-rusher. Dee Ford of Auburn (6’2″ 243 lbs.) came on strong this fall after Corey Lemonier declared early for the 2013 NFL Draft last spring, and the former Tiger capped off his terrific 2013 campaign with a solid showing at the Senior Bowl.
28. Carolina Panthers
Offensive Guard/Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame
Starting left tackle Jordan Gross will turn 34. In addition, staring right tackle Byron Bell will be a free agent and former Steeler washout, Chris Scott, started eight games last year for Carolina. The Panthers would be wise to shore up their offensive line and find more weapons for Cam Newton during the upcoming draft. Thus, someone like Zack Martin could intrigue them if he is on the board at number 28 overall. A four-year starter at left tackle, Martin’s short-arms could force him inside at the next level. Even if he has to move to right tackle or guard, Martin’s (6’4″ 305 lbs.) terrific technique could make him a dominant player at either of those three positions.
29. New England Patriots
Tight End, Washington
Due to Aaron Hernandez’s legal issues and Rob Gronkowski’s body crapping out on him, Tom Brady needs a new weapon at tight end. What is on their roster at the moment is not cutting the mustard, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins would be a solid value pickup at the end of the first round. Seferian-Jenkins is a large-framed tight end (6’6″ 276 lbs.) could be a lethal red zone weapon, and his size alone could create matchup issues all over the field.
30. San Francisco 49ers
Defensive Tackle, Minnesota
The 49ers have the luxury of taking the BPA at this juncture in round one, and San Francisco might want to start thinking about life after Justin Smith who will enter his 14th professional season next fall. Although wide receiver and cornerback might represent bigger needs, I am not sure the 49ers could pass up on a five-technique like Ra’Shede Hageman at the bottom of the first round. Hageman has the perfect combination of long arms, strength and overall size (6’6″ 318 lbs.) to thrive as a 3-4 defensive end.
31. Denver Broncos
Linebacker, Ohio State
If the Broncos lose Wesley Woodyard to free agency, then Denver’s coaching staff cold stand to add another quick and hard-hitting linebacker to team with Danny Trevathan. Although Shazier’s size (6’2″ 230 lbs.) might concern some teams, Ohio State’s play-making linebacker would be a fantastic addition to Denver’s linebacker corps and possesses the tools to be a three-down linebacker at the professional level.
32. Seattle Seahawks
Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh
Although the Seahawks’ defense does not need many upgrades, a player like Aaron Donald could make that unit even more lethal. Donald was college football’s most productive and intimidating defensive tackle during the 2013 regular season, and the former Pitt Panther could serve as valuable rotational depth at defensive tackle and a tremendous sub-package pass-rusher for Seattle. While some teams might shy away from Donald due to his frame (6′ 280 lbs.), a franchise like Seattle could help to highlight Donald’s unique skill-set and make him a force in their defense.
Readers: Be sure to read plenty of other mocks on the rest of the FanSided Network. In addition, check out the mock draft databases at Walter Football and DC Pro Sports Report after you are done here as well.
Players Stats Provided By Specific Team Pages: Alabama, Auburn, B.Y.U., Buffalo, Central Florida, Clemson, Florida State, Fresno State, L.S.U., Louisville, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon State, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Southern Cal, Texas A&M, T.C.U., Texas Tech, U.C.L.A., Washington and ESPN.com