2014 NFL Mock Draft: Four Quarterbacks Highlight the Top-10
As the NFL landscape changed drastically through free agency, teams have shifted their draft strategies to reflect certain needs. With NFL Pro Days highlighting the end of March, the opportunity to further evaluate players will be essential with less than eight weeks remaining until the draft.
Free agency impacted quite a few teams in the top ten, where the quarterback position can come into play. Still, the question remains where the top tier quarterback prospects in this year's draft land.
1. Houston Texans: QB Blake Bortles- Bortles used his recent pro day to further separate himself as the top overall pick in the draft. The Texans are in search of their franchise quarterback, and the former UCF starter has emerged as the favorite to hear his name called first on draft day.
2. St. Louis Rams ( via Washington): DE Jadeveon Clowney- When the Rams resigned OT Rodger Saffold, it became evident that an offensive tackle would be less of a priority. The opportunity to draft a pass rusher in Clowney, who displays more potential than any other prospect in this class, seems like an enticing proposition for head coach Jeff Fisher.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Teddy Bridgewater- General manager David Caldwell has used free agency to address the defensive front, most notably by adding former Seahawks pass rusher Chris Clemons. The Jaguars are in dire need of a quarterback, and Bridgewater is the safest bet to lead the franchise moving forward.
4. Cleveland Browns: QB Johnny Manziel- The Browns have been aggressive in free agency, adding Donte Whitner, Ben Tate, along with many other veterans. It’s evident that the roster is capable of competing within the AFC North if the quarterback situation is addressed. Manziel’s style of play will either lead him to become a major success story, or a big-time failure. But it’s a gamble that the Browns need to take in order to gain relevancy.
5. Oakland Raiders: WR Sammy Watkins- With the acquisition of Matt Schaub, it seems less likely that the Raiders will select a quarterback in the top five. The safe route is to add a legitimate number one receiver, and Sammy Watkins is the top prospect at the position.
6. Atlanta Falcons: OT Greg Robinson- If the Falcons are fortunate to have the three premier offensive tackle prospects available, it will be the best possible scenario. Robinson has emerged over the past three months as the top left tackle in this year’s draft. He’ll provide immediate improvement to Atlanta’s pass-protection.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Derek Carr- Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht has utilized the salary cap to add needed depth across the roster. With speculation that the new regime is not fond of Mike Glennon, the opportunity to add Carr could be enticing enough for the Buccaneers to pull the trigger.
8. Minnesota Vikings: OLB Khalil Mack- If the top four quarterbacks are off the board by the eighth pick, this would be the absolute worst-case scenario for the Vikings. Yet, Mike Zimmer is a creative defensive mind and could add Mack to bolster the pass rush with the departure of Jared Allen.
9. Buffalo Bills: OT Jake Matthews- As the Bills continue building around quarterback EJ Manuel, an upgrade on the offensive line should be a priority. Jake Matthews would have been a top ten pick in last year’s draft if he declared. After protecting Manziel’s blindside last season, he is capable of doing the same for Manuel.
10. Detroit Lions: CB Justin Gilbert- The Lions have lacked quality assets in the secondary over the past decade. However, they are going to have the opportunity to address those needs early on in the draft. Gilbert is one of the two cornerback prospects that can be drafted within the first 15 picks of this year’s draft.
11. Tennessee Titans: LB Anthony Barr- While the Titans focused on upgrading its offensive line in free agency, the defense under new coordinator Ray Horton has quite a few weaknesses that need to be addressed. Barr, once considered a consensus Top-5 selection, would be a great value pick in the Titans’ new defensive scheme.
12. New York Giants: OT Taylor Lewan- In this scenario, the Giants could either fill its need at left tackle, or draft a defensive tackle for the middle of its defense. Despite Lewan’s recent run-in with the law over the past few months, he is in the same tier as Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews. He is capable of providing substantial improvement on the Giants offensive line.
13. St. Louis Rams: WR Mike Evans- If the Rams continue their commitment to Sam Bradford, then the focus should turn to adding a big possession receiver to play alongside speedster Tavon Austin. Evans would immediately pose a threat as a playmaker that can make a major impact in the red zone.
14. Chicago Bears: DT Aaron Donald- The Bears run-defense ranked among the worst in the NFL last season. And despite the addition of Lamar Houston, they are in need of a defensive tackle in this draft. Aaron Donald was a standout at Pittsburgh, with smart NFL executives realizing his potential as a quality starter in this league.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Darqueze Dennard- As the Steelers continue to instill youth into its top tier defense, the secondary is in need of a major overhaul. Dennard is easily capable of emerging as the best cornerback in the class, and could quickly shine in Dick Lebeau’s defense.
16. Dallas Cowboys: DE Kony Ealy- When the Cowboys released DeMarcus Ware, it was clear that a new priority would be to add youth on the defensive front. Kony Ealy hasn’t garnered the necessary media attention compared to his former college teammate, Michael Sam. But Ealy is the most NFL-ready prospect from that Missouri defensive line, and would be in line to start during his first season in Dallas.
17. Baltimore Ravens: TE Eric Ebron- This selection for the Ravens would be the case of selecting the best available player on its draft board. Two major needs in the draft (right tackle, safety) aren’t likely to be addressed in the first round. Thus, the opportunity to build a formidable two-TE set for Joe Flacco to work with seems like an ideal proposition.
18. New York Jets: WR Odell Beckham Jr.- The free agent signing of Eric Decker should not prevent the Jets from upgrading its talent at wide receiver. Whether Michael Vick or Geno Smith is the starting quarterback, another receiver should be the primary concern for the Jets at the moment. Beckham Jr. has become a hot commodity due to his ability to produce explosive plays down the field.
19. Miami Dolphins: OT Zack Martin- Despite signing left tackle Brandon Albert, the offensive line remains the biggest weakness for the Dolphins. Martin is viewed as an offensive tackle that will probably have a better career if he makes the transition to guard. In this case, he would fill the void that was left by Richie Incognito.
20. Arizona Cardinals: TE Jace Amaro- The Cardinals have quietly improved this offseason by adding offensive tackle Jared Veldheer, in addition to veterans Antonio Cromartie and Ted Ginn Jr. An upgrade is needed at tight end, as Rob Housler provided limited production last season. It would be another addition for veteran quarterback Carson Palmer to have at his disposal in 2014.
21. Green Bay Packers: S Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix- If the opportunity presents itself, Packers general manager Ted Thompson wouldn’t hesitate to take Clinton-Dix if he fell this far. Green Bay’s secondary seems to be plagued with injuries every year, and they would have a chance to get the best safety in the draft late in the first round.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: S Calvin Pryor- The Eagles should make it a point to address a secondary that struggled against top-tier passing attacks last season. If Clinton-Dix is off the board by the 22nd pick, then Philadelphia should turn its attention to Pryor, who was a notable standout last season at Louisville.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Marqise Lee- The Chiefs should focus on adding another legitimate receiver for quarterback Alex Smith. Lee’s stock has dropped considerably over the past year, but he would immediately become the second best receiver on the roster behind Dwayne Bowe.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Jason Verrett- The Bengals should use their late first-round selection to add a talented cornerback, as injuries have prevented Dre Kirkpatrick from living up to expectations. Verrett could easily be knocked down for his size, but he showed last season that he is capable of playing up to the talent level of the opposing receiver that he is covering.
25. San Diego Chargers: DT Timmy Jernigan- The Chargers have pressing needs across the secondary and defensive front. Granted, Jernigan is a prospect that still needs to refine quite a few skills at the next level. But he could develop strong techniques from John Pagano, one of the more underappreciated defensive coaches in the game today.
26. Cleveland Browns: WR Brandin Cooks- Assuming that the Browns address the quarterback position with their first selection in the draft, the focus should become adding another talented receiver to play alongside Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron. Cooks' electrifying speed would add another valuable offensive target that can make him effective in the intermediate and deep routes.
27. New Orleans Saints: DE Dee Ford- While the Saints have built a respectable secondary over the past year, the focus should turn to forming a top defensive front around Cameron Jordan. Ford was successful with providing pressure on opposing quarterbacks despite playing on one of the worst defenses in college football.
28. Carolina Panthers: WR Kelvin Benjamin- Benjamin is one of the more difficult prospects to evaluate in this year's class. At 6'5, 240, he poses the size that NFL executives marvel at when it comes to wide receiver prospects. Although, his issues with dropped passes were a reoccurring issue last season. The Panthers, who are desperate for talented receivers with potential, are more likely to take a chance on Benjamin's upside.
29. New England Patriots: ILB C.J. Mosley- This would be a classic selection by Bill Belichick. The Patriots could select an inside linebacker that is a potential Top-15 selection, and would be quite a value pick if he fell to the ladder part of the first round. Mosley displayed great leadership qualities over the last few years at Alabama. It would be another addition to a defense that has improved drastically over the past month.
30. San Francisco 49ers: CB Kyle Fuller- The 49ers are one of the few teams likely to trade up in the draft due to the high number of draft picks they own, and the limited amount of spots for rookies on the roster. Though, cornerback remains the biggest weakness on defense after the departure of veteran Carlos Rogers. Fuller is among the handful of cornerbacks that are primed to end up as late first, or early second round draft selections.
31. Denver Broncos: CB Bradley Roby- Even though the Broncos signed Aqib Talib, they should not be finished with addressing a glaring need on their defense. Roby is a word-class athlete whose talent and youth is needed at a position with little depth.
32. Seattle Seahawks: OG Xavier Su’a-Filo - As the Seahawks prepare for their title defense, general manager John Schneider should recognize the deficiencies on the offensive line. With this selection, he would add arguably the draft’s best pure offensive guard and further improve Marshawn Lynch’s running lanes next season.