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 decided to take a crack at predicting the unpredictable. Bleeds-Green.com presents the second of a four-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 could field trade offers for the first pick, but the possible pairing of Clowney and J.J. Watt remains tantalizing. Houston can address quarterback later on.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn: Originally, we had the Rams adding a play-maker in Sammy Watkins, but Robinson gives St. Louis long-term insurance up front.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo: The Jags added pass rushing help in free agency, but defensive-minded coach Gus Bradley assuredly can’t pass on a talent like Mack. It’s probably a safer pick for Jacksonville than original prediction Blake Bortles.
4. Cleveland Browns: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson: Instead of moving back to take Mike Evans as predicted in the first mock, we have Cleveland staying put and pairing the consensus No. 1 WR prospect with Josh Gordon.
5. Oakland Raiders: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M: It’s almost impossible to project Oakland’s strategy, but Oakland would be smart to upgrade its offensive line. With original mock pick Robinson off the board, Matthews gives the Raiders an NFL-ready blocker.
6. Atlanta Falcons: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA: In the first mock, we predicted a Falcons trade for Khalil Mack, but with Cleveland staying at No. 4, Atlanta reaches a bit for the consensus third-rated pass rusher.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M: Tampa landed a flashy successor to Josh McCown in the first mock (see: Manziel, Johnny), but with Evans still available, it’d be hard for the Bucs to pass up a virtual clone of their other starting receiver, Vincent Jackson.
8. Minnesota Vikings: QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida: Cornerback is a need for the Vikings, but Darqueze Dennard in the first mock was arguably a reach. With Bortles, Minnesota gets a high-upside QB that can develop behind Matt Cassel.
9. Buffalo Bills: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina: Jake Matthews would probably be a better pick here, but since he’s gone this time around, the draft’s top tight end makes sense for Buffalo, giving QB E.J. Manuel a weapon in the passing game.
10. Detroit Lions: FS Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, Alabama: Instead of trading with Dallas as we first predicted, the Lions take Clinton-Dix for themselves, adding a rangy starter to the back end of their secondary.
11. Tennessee Titans: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: It wouldn’t be surprising to see a QB selection here. Ditto for an Anthony Barr pick if the pass rusher is available. Gilbert, however, gives Tennessee a high-potential replacement of Alterraun Verner.
12. New York Giants: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan: Lewan could go anywhere between the top 10-20 picks, but we have him sticking with the Giants, who could use some help up front.
13. St. Louis Rams: QB Johnny Manziel: The Rams shake up the draft by taking one of the most polarizing prospects on the board in “Johnny Football.” As if St. Louis’ selection isn’t enough, we also project a subsequent draft day trade of the Rams’ former No. 1 overall pick, QB Sam Bradford, to Cleveland.
14. Chicago Bears: DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh: In this mock, safety Calvin Pryor is still on the board, but Donald makes sense as an instinctive addition to Chicago’s line, which lost Henry Melton in free agency.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State: The Steelers got Gilbert, the top-ranked corner, in the first mock draft, but Dennard is arguably a great consolation prize, fitting Pittsburgh’s physical defense.
16. Dallas Cowboys: FS/SS Calvin Pryor, Louisville: Instead of moving up to nab Clinton-Dix, we have Dallas addressing its secondary with another big-name prospect in Pryor, who could finally help shore up the Cowboys’ safety corps.
17. Baltimore Ravens: ILB C.J. Mosley, Alabama: Baltimore seems like an ideal landing spot for Mosley, so we have the Ravens sticking with him at 17.
18. New York Jets: WR Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU: As was the case with Mosley and the Ravens, we don’t see a reason to change the Jets’ pick. Beckham makes perfect sense as a play-making addition to New York’s receiving corps.
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: We’re keeping Bridgewater at No. 20, in part because it’s unclear how far the QB prospects could slide. What better scenario for Bridgewater and the Cards, who would make an ideal long-term match?
21. Green Bay Packers: WR Marqise Lee, USC: Losing James Jones in free agency could force Green Bay to dip into the deep receiver class, and Lee seems like a prospect that could thrive catching passes from Aaron Rodgers. Previous mock pick: OLB Ryan Shazier.
22. Carolina Panthers (*projected trade with Eagles): WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State: Looking to add explosiveness to a mediocre starting WR corps, we have the Panthers leapfrogging the Chiefs in a deal with the Eagles to snag Cooks.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: SS Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois: In the first mock, the Chiefs followed up an Eagles WR selection with a receiver pick of their own. With Beckham, Lee and Cooks already taken and no premier blockers on the board, Kansas City replaces departed starter Kendrick Lewis.at safety.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri: Dee Ford, the mock pick by Cincy last week, could fall a bit on draft day. Here, we have the Bengals addressing the pass rusher role with Ealy.
25. San Diego Chargers: DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame: Cornerback Kyle Fuller could be a possibility for San Diego, but Nix gives the Chargers some needed depth in the core of its D-line after the free agency loss of Cam Thomas.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech: Landing the top WR prospect in Watkins and then getting someone to throw the ball to in a projected trade for Sam Bradford, Cleveland adds to its arsenal of Day One acquisitions by landing a hopeful starter opposite Joe Haden.
27. New Orleans Saints: CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State: New Orleans added Champ Bailey at corner, but at his age, he’s not a long-term option. Roby is a potential steal at the back end of the first.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (*projected trade with Panthers): WR Cody Latimer, Indiana: Most importantly, the Eagles add a mid-round pick in the projected trade, boosting their pick total (6). Latimer is rising fast and, although he’s regarded as a raw prospect, has the physicality and ball skills to become a big contributor in Chip Kelly’s offense.
29. New England Patriots: DT Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota: According to analysts, Hageman seems to be falling faster than a sack of bricks. Even so, he fits the Pats’ hybrid defensive line. Bill Belichick will find a role for him.
30. San Francisco 49ers: DE/OLB Dee Ford, Auburn: Pro Bowl linebacker Aldon Smith may or may not be subjected to a suspension for some off-field activity, and Ford would give the Niners some pass rushing depth. With Justin Smith getting older, too, Ford gives San Fran a long-term defensive piece.
31. Denver Broncos: CB Jason Verrett, TCU: Denver lost Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Champ Bailey in free agency, so Verrett fills an obvious defensive need, even if he’s projected as a Day Two target by most.
32. Seattle Seahawks: OT Morgan Moses, Virginia: The Seahawks could use some help along the offensive line, and Moses seems to be a safer pick at the back end of the round than the injury-riddled Cyrus Kouandjio.