It’s NFL draft season, so you knew it was coming. Only time will tell where the top college prospects land this year, but we finally decided to take a crack at predicting the unpredictable. Bleeds-Green.com presents the first of a three-part 2014 mock draft series:
*Note: On Thursday mornings from now until the 2014 NFL Draft on May 8, Cody Benjamin and guest contributor Demetri George will release their first-round predictions. George is a producer of “The Big Hit” sports show on IUP-TV and a color analyst for Indiana University of Pennsylvania football on 90.1 WIUP-FM.
1. Houston Texans: DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina: The Texans need a franchise QB, but pairing Clowney with J.J. Watt would give Houston a virtually unstoppable line. If Clowney falls out of favor, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Blake Bortles land here, let alone an outright trade out of the No. 1 pick.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson: The Rams could use some help up front, but they also might be foolish to pass on Watkins, who’s arguably on the Julio Jones level of WR prospects and would pair nicely with Tavon Austin.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida: If Watkins would have fallen to No. 3, Jacksonville might not let him slip from its grasp, but the Jags also need a long-term quarterback, and Bortles arguably has the highest upside of his class.
4. Atlanta Falcons* (projected trade with Browns): OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo: Looking to milk the value of their picks, the Browns send this selection to Atlanta, which takes care of its dire need for pass rushers by landing the consensus No. 2 DE/OLB available in Mack.
5. Oakland Raiders: OT Greg Robinson, Auburn: If there’s any team destined to destroy mock drafts, it’s probably the Raiders, but instead of going for speed this year, Oakland could address its void up front by landing a potential star in Robinson.
6. Cleveland Browns* (projected trade with Falcons): WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M: Fans might clamor for a quarterback early on, but the Browns do have another first-rounder, so going for Evans would first upgrade the receiving corps, adding a big-bodied target opposite Josh Gordon.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: Josh McCown was signed to start for Tampa, but his expiration date is probably coming sooner rather than later. Taking a chance on “Johnny Football” would inject the Bucs’ long-term offense with explosion.
8. Minnesota Vikings: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State: The Vikings could use QB help, but with Matt Cassel back, they can arguably afford to wait until the top of the second round to address that. Dennard gives them much-needed depth in the secondary.
9. Buffalo Bills: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M: Matthews might be viewed as a steal at No. 9, giving the Bills a future staple of protection for last year’s first-round pick, quarterback E.J. Manuel.
10. Dallas Cowboys* (projected trade with Lions): FS Hasean Clinton-Dix, Alabama: Jerry Jones likes to bring big names to Dallas, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Cowboys pull off another Day One trade, swapping spots with Detroit to add the consensus top safety to their “D.”
11. Tennessee Titans: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA: Barr could come off the board in the top 10, but the Titans could snag a potential big-play pass rusher if he’s still available at 11. Don’t rule out another QB reach pick (see: Jake Locker), however.
12. New York Giants: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan: In need of blocking help for Eli Manning, the Giants would assuredly be content if Lewan falls into their hands, giving New York a long-term bookend tackle option.
13. St. Louis Rams: FS Calvin Pryor, Louisville: After adding Watkins at No. 2, the Rams could shift their focus to defense, where they should be looking for secondary help. Pryor would add a hard-hitting physicality to that side of the ball.
14. Chicago Bears: DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh: Notre Dame’s Louis Nix might make some sense here, but Donald is another likely candidate to land in Chicago, which needs some depth up front after losing Julius Peppers this year.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: Dennard might be a better physical fit for the Steelers defense, but with the Lions snagging him at No. 8, Gilbert is a nice consolation prize. Many analysts have the OSU corner atop their boards.
16. Detroit Lions* (projected trade with Cowboys): TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina: Despite moving back in their projected trade with Dallas, Detroit might be forced to take the best player available at 16, and adding Ebron to an offense that already features Calvin Johnson would be dangerous.
17. Baltimore Ravens: ILB C.J. Mosley, Alabama: Mosley, widely considered the top linebacker in this year’s class, seems like just the kind of player the Ravens would love to add to their defense.
18. New York Jets: WR Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU: Stephen Hill has yet to deliver for the Jets, so bolstering their receiving corps seems like a smart idea. Beckham playing in an “O” that now includes Michael Vick and Chris Johnson could be fun to watch.
19. Miami Dolphins: OG Zack Martin, Notre Dame: Martin wouldn’t be a flashy pick, but adding him to the offensive line could only benefit Ryan Tannehill.
20. Arizona Cardinals: QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville: What better scenario for both Arizona and Bridgewater, who was once seen as a top-five pick? The Cards could steal a successor to Carson Palmer, while Bridgewater would land with an underrated contender.
21. Green Bay Packers: OLB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State: Adding depth to the defensive side of the ball could be key for Green Bay, and Shazier would arguably be a quietly solid upgrade to the linebacker corps.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Marqise Lee, USC: The Eagles could go in a number of directions, and a trade might be likely. But the team has eyeballed Lee quite a bit, and he would seem to be an explosive compliment to Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State: It’s only fitting for former Eagles coach Andy Reid to follow in the footsteps of Philadelphia. By landing Cooks, Kansas City might give itself a younger version of DeSean Jackson, one of Reid’s former starters.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: DE Dee Ford, Auburn: Losing Michael Johnson could be a significant blow to Cincinnati’s defense, but adding someone like Ford could lessen the load, not to mention give the Bengals a high-potential rusher.
25. San Diego Chargers: CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech: In need of some secondary help, the Chargers could take a chance on Fuller, who has widely been ranked among the top three corners in this year’s class.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): QB Derek Carr, Fresno State: The Browns passed on the chance at Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater earlier, but Carr could turn out to be a steal as a late first-rounder. He’d at least give Cleveland a viable long-term starting possibility.
27. New Orleans Saints: DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame: The Saints had to shed a number of veterans for salary cap reasons this offseason, but Nix could give New Orleans an underrated piece to plug into the middle of the line.
28. Carolina Panthers: WR Allen Robinson, Penn State: The weapon-needy Panthers added Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant at wide receiver, but both those guys are better suited to play No. 2 roles. Robinson could be an immediate solution to that.
29. New England Patriots: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri: The Pats could use some additional pass rush, and Ealy would assuredly give them just that.
30. San Francisco 49ers: DT RaShede Hageman, Minnesota: Justin Smith is the furthest thing from a slouch up front, but he’s also not getting any younger, so a guy like Hageman could be an ideal fit in the 3-4 scheme for the Niners.
31. Denver Broncos: CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State: If Denver wants to make another deep playoff run, they’ll probably need to make changes at CB, from which both Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Champ Bailey departed. Roby could be a steal at the end of the round.
32. Seattle Seahawks: OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama: Adding depth up front would be smart, and the Seahawks don’t ever seem to shy away from taking a chance on developmental, albeit injury-prone players.