2014 NFL Mock Draft: Version 1.0
1. Houston Texans – QB Teddy Bridgewater – Louisville
Bridgewater is a big arm quarterback with top notch accuracy. The Texans have a new coach in former Penn State head coach, Bill O’Brien. Bridgewater can fit into any formation and is a franchise caliber upgrade over both Keenum and Schaub combined. While he’s not very athletic in terms of running the ball, he can sway very well and has patience in the pocket. His down field vision is solid, and he checks off receivers. He needs to add a few more pounds of muscle to his frame, but aside from that he’s everything the Texans want in a franchise quarterback.
2. St. Louis Rams – OT Jake Matthews – Texas A&M
There’s no way the Rams don’t trade down from this pick. Any of their top needs would be a reach with this pick, and moving down while adding additional picks will be their move. I take Matthews here if they remain, he’s a reach pick here, but of the top reaches for team needs, he’s the logical selection. Regardless of who starts the season at the helm for the Rams, without better blocking and protection the offense will falter. I highly doubt he will be their selection as this pick will be dealt, but for the sake of discussion if they stay put, for size, speed, and blocking ability, the Rams get a solid addition to the offensive line.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Derek Carr – Fresno State
The Jaguars will be tempted to select Bortles with this pick, since they have been scouting him for majority of the season, primarily during UCF’s home games. However, their need for a big down field arm will win over this pick. Carr does have the “bust” gene from his brother as a concern, but each player is different, and Derek outplayed his brother at Fresno State and his intangibles exceed the prior as well.
Carr is less mobile in the pocket than Bortles, but the Jaguars are investing in his arm as their deciding factor. Aside from Carr’s strong arm he has solid accuracy as well. He may not have more room to grow at the next level, but his ability to make good reads down field gives the Jags their franchise quarterback, and he should challenge Brunell’s marks along the way.
4. Cleveland Browns – QB Blake Bortles – UCF
The Browns are going after New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and his work with Tom Brady has been exceptional since taking the job with the Patriots. Bortles is an excellent pick for the Browns. The only knock on him is he needs to add more bulk, mainly in his arm for the big down field throws, but his short to mid range game is incredible. He can make solid passes up to 30 yards and has very reliable accuracy. I liken his current abilities to a mix of Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck.
He is a mobile QB with a knack for avoiding blitzes, and makes good reads when flushed outside of the pocket. Don’t make a Manziel comparison here, Bortles is far more patient in the pocket and knows when’s the right time to run the ball, where Johnny Football tends to get easily rattled and take off you won’t get this erratic play from Bortles. Bortles is my top QB in this year’s crop, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Texans take him with the top pick, or another team trades up for the Rams picks and selects him 2nd overall. In that event, Carr goes to Jacksonville and the Browns will give a close look at Manziel, Clowney, Barr, or trading out of the pick and adding another first and more picks in this stock piled draft.
5. Oakland Raiders – QB Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M
Oakland is done experimenting and will move Pryor to #2 on the depth chart or reassign him as a receiving option. Manziel is everything the still Al Davis’ era led Raiders are looking for in a potential franchise quarterback. He has deadly speed, there’s no questioning that aspect. He can rip a pass down field with ease, but Johnny Football in college ball doesn’t mean he will have the same freedoms at the next level.
He comes with a good set of concerns, but the Raiders will overlook them and invest in his development over the next 4-5 seasons. The knocks on Manziel are he is very impatient, and once on the run he often takes off versus quickly checking down field for an open receiver. This works OK in college ball, but at the next level, with his build, that will need to be addressed. He doesn’t check down receivers and makes hasty reads, due to the same impatience. Also, when in the pocket he tends to stare down his target, all these concerns combined will be problematic at the next level, so it’s a good thing patience can be learned.
Manziel has a very competitive nature and quite an ego to boot; both will fit in very well with the Raiders organization, team, and their fan base. The Raiders, as a team, are all over the place and needs an identity on offense. They will build that identity around Johnny Football.
6. Atlanta Falcons – DE Anthony Barr – UCLA
Anthony Barr was recruited for his speed by UCLA and initially was to play as a RB/FB, but an increase in size and big hitting ability led the Bruins to move him over to defense, which catapulted this kid’s career. Barr is a beast and can play both the 3-4 and 4-3, and the Falcons are in need of a fast and dominating defensive end.
Barr has the ability to line up as a SAM on base downs and play defensive end on pass rushing downs. His speed and good short zone coverage game will allow him to cover backs and ends at the next level. Tackles will have difficulty blocking him as he has very quick hands and has bullish strength in both his upper and lower body. Barr has good lateral agility and shuffles well in stunts. He has a no lose attitude and will give the Falcons defense the lift it needs to get back into playoff form.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DE Jadeveon Clowney – South Carolina
Yes, Clowney has a list of concerns lowering his stock, and while I may be lowering him further than other mocks, there’s simply no way he falls past the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay needs a game changing defensive end, one they haven’t possessed since the days of Simeon Rice. Clowney has good size and speed. He is a freak of nature on defense because his build and physical abilities are unmatched.
Clowney has quick speed off the snap and is very agile in his movements to pressure quarterbacks, shut down gaps, and can force the flow of offense away from him. I liken him to a valid mix of Trevor Pryce and Jevon Kearse. I’ve had the pleasure of watching Pryce since our days as students at Lake Howell High School, and Clowney has Pryce’s physical dominance mixed with Kearse’s agility and speed.
Now here are the veggies... Clowney has serious motivational problems and can procrastinate at the worst of times, and was seen giving up on the field during periods during last season. You can’t do this and become successful player in the NFL. I’ve been hearing of other esteem issues arising too, thus he comes with a boatload of psychological concerns that only Clowney can fix himself. It sounds like a Josh Freeman type situation all over again, but the risk is worth the potential reward for Tampa Bay.
8. Minnesota Vikings – QB Brett Hundley – UCLA
OK, he hasn’t declared and the chances are sort of remote that he doesn’t, but until he announces his return to UCLA, he’s on my board. Hundley is another reason for my guarantee the Rams trade down. I have been hearing that some teams have Huntley as the top QB in the draft and on their draft board. However, until all declarations are made and the deadline passes, I’m playing it safe with this mock.
The Vikings are another team bringing in a new head coach, and any new head coach will appreciate a quarterback that resembles a former Minnesota QB named Daunte Culpepper. In fact, the best example to describe Brett Hundley’s ability as a QB is Daunte Culpepper.
Hundley has a big frame, cannon arm, and near pinpoint accuracy (step above Culpepper). He also has equal agility and mobility under pressure, which means he can flush the pocket and is a bit harder to tackle thanks to his size. He looks off defenders very well, and makes quick check offs to find an open receiver. He is a good signal caller and cadence barker than most realize, and he makes good defensive reads prior to the snap. He has plenty of room to grow, which is another plus for Minnesota.
9. Buffalo Bills – WR Mike Evans – Texas A&M
Buffalo is NOT giving up on EJ Manuel and moving up for a quarterback, so I’m ending that nonsensical projection. The Bills have a good a duo of receivers in both Johnson and Woods, but neither is a true 1WR. Evans at 6’5 has a huge advantage over opposing corners with a ridiculous arm length and overall reach height and that is without leaping. He has a great vertical jump that will make it difficult to cover him in man coverage.
Evans has good speed for his size and runs a 4.55 forty. He’s a long ball threat but can be a possession 1WR in short to intermediate range to make up for where he doesn’t have a speed advantage. I like his footwork off the snap. He gets separation quickly due to size but also from his agile feet. Evans doesn’t shy away from contact and doesn’t get distracted despite knowing he’s going to get popped after the catch. Expect good production numbers next season from EJ Manuel and the Bills’ offense.
10. Detroit Lions – WR Sammy Watkins – Clemson
I don’t like making this pick because I know the Lions’ need a solid corner to bolster their problematic secondary. A strong secondary would turn the fortunes of this team around next season, but this draft is full of talent at the position, so I have them passing on it and drafting Watkins to help take the heat off of Megatron.
Watkins improved this season. His receptions increase stood out the most, a sign of increased concentration and fewer distractions. He has blazing speed and can score at will if given an ounce of room to shift after the catch. He’s not a tall receiver, but has deceptive leaping ability and can break a cornerback’s ankles if they relax slightly in coverage or pressing too aggressively.
He runs routes at full speeds and adjusts well to each pass. One highlight I noticed this season was his dedication to never give up on a pass thrown his direction, he didn’t stop till the play ended with a completion or an incompletion. Opposing defenses will have a difficult time containing the run thanks to Watkins ability to stretch the field, which means Megatron will have less resistance in coverage.
11. Tennessee Titans – S Haha Clinton-Dix – Alabama
The Titans are in need of a cover safety and finds one that can make solid hits too. Dix comes with a full skills set and solid intangibles. He runs a 4.5 forty but has been known to hit the afterburners and appears faster on the field and in coverage. He makes excellent pass reads and adjusts well in both man and zone coverage.
The addition of Dix will bolster the Titans defense that needs improvements to get them over .500 and back in playoff contention next season. Jake Locker’s situation does hint at the possibility the Titans may be in the market for a quarterback with this pick, but the best are already off the board, so if a quarterback is their selection they will have to trade up, and the Rams are looking for offensive tackles. The Titans have two starting tackles set to hit free agency over the next two seasons to dangles for the #2 pick.
12. New York Giants – LB Khalil Mack – Buffalo
Jon Beason has played very well since arriving from Carolina, but the Giants have holes to fill within their linebacking core. Mack can step into an outside role at linebacker and has good size and decent speed to be a factor in coverage and on blitzing downs. He makes hard hits and clearly there isn’t one that he’s afraid of making.
Also, and this is key, Justin Tuck propelled the Giants success down the ending stretch of 2013, but Tuck is a free agent, so Mack with his size, speed, and skill set, can settle into Tuck’s void and assure the pass rush won’t suffer any major setbacks next season. Mack is the first of many defensive additions the Giants will need to make this offseason. They will address their issues at corner in rounds two or through free agency.
13. St. Louis Rams – WR Kelvin Benjamin – Florida State
I have been unimpressed with the Rams receiving corps over the past two seasons, and following 2013, there is no way they can afford not to take a receiver with this selection. Benjamin is a gifted receiver with top notch playmaking potential. He runs a 4.6 forty, but also once clocked at 4.5, and has a 40 inch vertical to add to his 6’5 240 lb frame.
Benjamin has fluent agility, great footwork, and gets separation quickly. His height advantage will make him a potential savior to Bradford’s career next season. He runs routes exceptionally well, and will win a slew of “jump ball” passes. He is a potential All-Pro with plenty of room to grow, and his upside at the next level is unlimited.
14. Chicago Bears – DT Ra’Shede Hageman – Minnesota
I normally don’t place potential “boom or bust” picks this high in the first round, but Hageman is the top interior defensive lineman in this year’s crop. There are legitimate concerns over inconsistent play, but he is capable and coachable. The Bears are the lone reason I have him off the board this early in the first round. Their defensive line is in shambles, Melton is a free agent, and age has finally caught up with Julius Peppers. The Bears are desperate to inject younger bodies into their defensive frontline.
The Bears are easily heading into a rebuilding faze so taking a risk on Hageman is of minor concern. They need bodies that can produce and this kid is huge and plays bigger. If the Bears keep Peppers after a lackluster season, Hageman’s addition could allow the 12 year veteran to have one last All-Pro caliber season before hanging his shoes.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – OT Cyrus Kouandjio – Alabama
I can’t make it any simpler this time around, if the Steelers want to win more games and compete for the AFC North, it won’t happen unless they make upgrades along the offensive line. Moreover, they need add a tackle that will give Roethisberger more time to execute on offense.
The ground game would benefit as well, since they were attempting to find daylight with only a keyhole to run through over the past two seasons. Cyrus is your typical big body tackle that can easily throw his weight around. He doesn’t possess much in the form of quickness, but he pops and sets quick enough to disrupt aggressive defender’s intentions.
16. Dallas Cowboys – DE/OLB Vic Beasley – Clemson
Ware’s injuries have become a burden, and despite Selvie holding his own last season, the Cowboys need to add depth at defensive end. Also, should the Cowboys shift back to the 3-4 next season as anticipated, Beasley could settle right into the “Big Rush” linebacker. Regardless of formation, Beasley is a playmaker and will help the Cowboys lethargic sack total increase next season.