Once again, it is time for another 2014 NFL Mock Draft here at NPC:
1. Houston Texans
Quarterback, Texas A&M
Houston needs a long-term solution at the quarterback position, and they could elect to take a signal-caller with the first overall pick in the draft this May. Although many are high on Teddy Bridgewater at the moment, the electrifying and dazzling Johnny Manziel could rise to the top of draft boards around the league at the quarterback position. The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner could be the type of exciting and athletic player that the Texans’ offense needs, and Manziel should be a hot commodity at the top of the first round as long as his lack of size (6′ 210 lbs.) and off-field background do not trouble teams.
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
Defensive End, South Carolina
Unless a team trades ahead of them, Jadeveon Clowney could fall to the quarterback-needy Jaguars. It will be an ultimate “BPA vs. Position of Need” scenario if the talented defensive end falls to them at number three. Jacksonville had one of the league’s most anemic pass-rushes last season, and Clowney (6’5″ 274 lbs.) projects to be a fantastic 4-3 defensive end. Although Clowney’s work-ethic, injury history and motor could be causes for concern, he is one of the best athletes in the draft and definitely worth a top-five selection.
4. Cleveland Browns
Quarterback, Central Florida
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, but he could be gone by the time the Browns go on the clock in round one. Blake Bortles possesses a large frame (6’3″ 230 lbs.), strong arm, surprising mobility and could be an option for Cleveland. Despite the fact that his mechanics and footwork could use some improvement, Bortles’ skill-set could make him a top-ten lock.
5. Oakland Raiders
In what could be a make-or-break year for Dennis Allen, Oakland’s head coach cannot feel comfortable about Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor as his signal-callers next season. 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. While 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
Offensive Tackle, Auburn
The Bills might need to think about a long-term replacement for Erik Pears at right tackle. The veteran will turn 32 this summer and is entering the final season of his current contract. If a pass-rusher doesn’t intrigue them in round one, then they might roll the dice on an offensive tackle with the ninth overall pick. The massive (6’5″ 320 lbs.) Greg Robinson could be the type of road-grading tackle the Bills want to pair with Cordy Glenn.
10. Detroit Lions
Wide Receiver, Texas A&M
The Lions could very well elect to draft a cornerback with the 10th overall pick to upgrade their woeful secondary. I would not blame them for the move, but they could try to find a compliment to Calvin Johnson in their passing game if Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard do not interest those in charge in Detroit. Mike Evans (6’5″ 225 lbs.) would give Matt Stafford another weapon to find through the air, and I am sure that new head coach Jim Caldwell would be thrilled to add a capable red zone target to the roster.
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 if he fell to them at number 11 overall. 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
Defensive End, Missouri
Justin Tuck will be a free agent this March and Jason Pierre-Paul will be one in the spring of 2015. To hedge their bets at defensive end, the Giants’ brass could take a chance on a pass-rusher like Kony Ealy of Missouri. The catalyst behind the Tigers’ potent pass-rush, Ealy (6’5″ 275 lbs.) could provide the Giants with insurance in the present and potential edge-rushing force in the future in their 4-3 defensive scheme.
13. St. Louis Rams
Cornerback, Oklahoma State
St. Louis could be in the market for a cornerback early in this May’s draft, and I am sure that they would love to have Justin Gilbert fall to them at number 13 overall. 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. Greg Williams will need large and physical cornerbacks to excel in his defense, and Gilbert could fit that bill.
14. Chicago Bears
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Free Safety, Alabama
Chris Conte and Major Wright were liabilities last season on the back end of Chicago’s defense. If HaHa Clinton-Dix (6’1″ 208 lbs.) falls past St. Louis at number 13, then he could fall right into the laps of the safety-needy Bears. The former Alabama star would give Chicago’s transitioning secondary a large boost, and his physical nature and ability to cover large amounts of ground could make him a solid fit in Mel Tucker’s defense.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
While I would really love to see the Steelers draft a tight end or a wide receiver in the first round, I would be nothing short of thrilled if C.J. Mosley fell to them at number 15 overall. Although inside linebacker is not in need of an upgrade as other positions on Pittsburgh’s roster, they could shore up the position for the next decade if they took the former Alabama linebacker. Mosely 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. With Lawrence Timmons, Vince Williams, Terence Garvin and Mosley, the Steelers would have a fantastic foursome at their disposal at inside linebacker.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Wide Receiver, Southern California
If the Ravens want Joe Flacco to live up to his massive contract, then they had better find him some more weapons to throw to over the coming seasons. Pairing the speedy Marqise Lee (6′ 195 lbs.) with Torrey Smith would make Baltimore’s passing game difficult to deal with, and Lee could eat up acres of space created by Smith, Marlon Brown and the Ravens’ tight ends. Although injuries derailed Lee’s senior season, his productivity as a junior and outstanding athletic ability should make him a first round pick.
17. Dallas Cowboys
Defensive Tackle, Florida State
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 and free up their edge rushers and linebackers. 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. Jernigan could be exactly what Dallas’ defensive line needs, and the stout defensive tackle (6’2″ 298 lbs.) has the potential to help one of the league’s worst defenses from last season.
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
Offensive Tackle, Michigan
Ryan Tannehill’s career could mirror David Carr’s if he does not receive better pass-protection from his teammates up front. Although Taylor 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 and a potential solution to Miami’s problems at left tackle.
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
Nose Tackle, Notre Dame
B.J. Raji will be a free agent this March, and the Packers could decide to spend an early-round pick on his replacement. One player who could be available when they go on the clock in the first round is the massive Louis Nix of Notre Dame. Many project Nix (6’2″ 345 lbs.) to be a classic zero-technique who could work best in a 3-4 defensive scheme, and he could be the gap-clogging force Raji was for Dom Capers’ defense for the past five seasons. If teams are comfortable with Nix’s knee and injury histories, he should be selected towards the end of the first round.
22. Philadelphia Eagles
Wide Receiver, Florida State
Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper will be free agents this March. If one or both leave, then Nick Foles will need another wide receiver to throw to this fall.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.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
Cornerback, Michigan State
Kansas City needs massive upgrades in their secondary after their complete and total collapse in the wild card game against the Colts. 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.
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
Outside Linebacker, Auburn
The Larry English experiment failed in San Diego, and the Chargers might want to add more edge rushers to their roster if they ever wish to rise to the top of the AFC. Dee Ford is making a steady climb up draft boards around the league, and his terrific senior season and showing at the Senior Bowl have helped his stock. While the Auburn defensive end will likely have to transition to outside linebacker due to his small frame (6’2″ 243 lbs.), he could an impact presence off the edge as a role player early in his career.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis)
Offensive Guard/Offensive Tackle, Stanford
Outside of Joe Thomas and the potentially departing Alex Mack, the Browns need help in the offensive trenches. John Greco, Oniel Cousins and Shawn Lauvao started at guard for the Browns last fall, and that position is in need of a serious upgrade. The savvy and versatile David Yankey (6’5″ 315 lbs.) started two seasons at left guard for the Cardinal and another at left tackle during his collegiate career. Although the selection of a guard near the end of the first round might not be exciting, it could do wonders for the interior of the Browns’ offensive line.
27. New Orleans Saints
Kyle Van Noy
Linebacker, Brigham Young
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 play-making linebacker. The versatile Van Noy, (6’3″ 244 lbs.) who can play inside, outside or even at defensive end, should garner plenty of buzz after his productive college career.
28. Carolina Panthers
Offensive Guard/Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame
Starting left tackle Jordan Gross will turn 34 this year. 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 during the upcoming draft by selecting someone like Zack Martin of Notre Dame. 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
Odell Beckham, Jr.
Wide Receiver, Louisiana State
The 49ers have the luxury of taking the BPA at this juncture in round one, and San Francisco might want to address the wide receiver position. If Anquan Boldin is not extended, the 49ers’ brass will have to find someone to compliment Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis in the passing game. A speedy receiver (5’11″ 193 lbs.) like Odell Beckham, Jr. could be just what San Francisco’s offense needs to open things up in the slot, and his skills in the return game are an added plus.
31. Denver Broncos
Denver’s secondary was exposed as the overrated joke it always was in Super Bowl XLVIII, and the Broncos will need to upgrade the cornerback position during the coming months. 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 the Broncos’ defense will need at least a couple of them if they wish to rise to the top of their division.
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, Stanford, Texas A&M, T.C.U., Texas Tech, U.C.L.A., Washington and ESPN.com