Only time will tell where the top college prospects land in the NFL draft this year, but we decided to take a final crack at predicting the unpredictable. Bleeds-Green.com presents the fourth and final part of its 2014 mock draft series:
*Note: The following first-round projections by Cody Benjamin and guest contributor Demetri George will be graded for accuracy by The Huddle Report after the 2014 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday. 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 have kept quiet about whether they like Clowney over fellow pass rusher Khalil Mack (or a potential trade down), but the opportunity to pair a freakish defensive talent like Clowney with J.J. Watt could be too tempting to pass up.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M: If Clowney slips to No. 2, the Rams could milk the trade value of their pick. Otherwise, they would have a shot at a premier play-maker in Sammy Watkins, but a pro-ready blocker like Matthews seems to fit even better.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo: If Mack, considered by some to be the best pass rusher in the draft, falls into the lap of defensive-minded coach Gus Bradley, the Jaguars might not hesitate to add him to a restocked, albeit aging defensive core.
4. Cleveland Browns: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: Sammy Watkins would have to be a possibility at No. 4, but there’s arguably one player who would bring even more explosion to Cleveland’s offense: “Johnny Football.” Manziel might define a boom-or-bust prospect, but the Browns need a quarterback.
5. Oakland Raiders: WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson: If Manziel slips past Cleveland, the Raiders could be in contention to make their annual didn’t-see-that-coming selection on the QB. With Watkins, though, they’d get arguably the most explosive WR to come out since A.J. Green and Julio Jones.
6. Atlanta Falcons: OT Greg Robinson, Auburn: The Falcons seem likely to explore a trade up, but how convenient would it be for Robinson, the No. 1 tackle according to many analysts, to slide out of the top five?
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh: Mike Evans makes a ton of sense as a potential No. 2 wideout opposite Vincent Jackson, but Donald is a rising prospect who could give Tampa Bay an added force in the interior of their defensive line.
8. San Francisco 49ers (*projected trade with Vikings): WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M: Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first blockbuster deal of the draft. Packaging a handful of their whopping 11 total picks, the Niners could add a top-ranked physical piece to their receiving corps by landing Evans in a deal with Minnesota.
9. Buffalo Bills: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan: Jake Matthews seems like an ideal fit for the Bills if he’s available, but Lewan would arguably give Buffalo just as talented of a prospect. Any added protection for QB E.J. Manuel would probably be smart.
10. Detroit Lions: FS Ha’Sean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix: The Lions have a knack for landing big-name defensive prospects in recent years, and that likely wouldn’t change if Clinton-Dix, who is widely viewed as this year’s top safety, is available for the taking.
11. Dallas Cowboys (*projected trade with Titans): OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA: At No. 11, the Titans have some flexibility to move around, and in a projected trade with Dallas, they do just that. The Cowboys cut ties with DeMarcus Ware this year, but they could take steps to replace his pass rushing prowess by landing Barr.
12. New York Giants: OT/OG Zack Martin, Notre Dame: For awhile, Taylor Lewan seemed like the prime selection for New York, but seeing as though he could come off the board in the top 10, Martin would make for a solid consolation prize in the trenches.
13. St. Louis Rams: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: The Rams could be on the lookout for a play-maker if they don’t take Watkins at No. 2, but Gilbert might be hard to pass up as the consensus top-ranked cornerback and an instant long-term upgrade.
14. New York Jets (*projected trade with Bears): WR Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU: The Jets haven’t been shy about adding offensive firepower this offseason (see: Johnson, Chris; Vick, Michael), and if they move up several spots, they could assure themselves the addition of a balanced threat in Beckham.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech: A physical guy like Darqueze Dennard makes sense for Pittsburgh, as does virtually any wide receiver, but Fuller could give the Steelers a solid all-around package to inject into their secondary.
16. Tennessee Titans (*projected trade with Cowboys): QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida: Moving back in its projected trade with Dallas, the Titans could look to address cornerback, but it might be hard to pass up on Bortles, who some believe to be the best QB of his class. With Jake Locker’s future unclear, Bortles would give Tennessee a refreshing long-term option under center.
17. Baltimore Ravens: ILB C.J. Mosley, Alabama: Widely expected to be the first linebacker off the board, Mosley just seems like a defender the Ravens would covet, and his instincts could be key for the heart of Baltimore’s “D.”
18. Chicago Bears (*projected trade with Jets): FS/SS Calvin Pryor, Louisville: Adding some ammunition by moving back in their projected deal with New York, the Bears could still upgrade a position of need with the hard-hitting Pryor.
19. Miami Dolphins: TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina: A lineman would make the most sense for Miami, but if the Dolphins judge the pool of available players purely by value, a pass-catching threat like Ebron could be too hard to ignore.
20. Arizona Cardinals: QB Derek Carr, Fresno State: Arizona is arguably on the brink of a playoff run with Carson Palmer at QB, but the Cardinals might have the long-term outlook of the position in mind. Surrounded by talent, Carr could make for a productive starter down the road.
21. Green Bay Packers: ILB/OLB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State: A guy like C.J. Mosley would make sense for Green Bay if he’s available, but in Shazier, the Packers could add a heavy dose of athleticism to their linebacker corps.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Marqise Lee, USC: If they don’t move around, the Eagles could be forced to choose between guys like Lee, Brandin Cooks and Cody Latimer at receiver, as well as cornerbacks like Dennard. In terms of value, Lee seems to be the best pick and could be a big-play addition to Chip Kelly’s loaded offense.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: OG Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA: The Chiefs need some weapons in the passing game, but they could also use a lot of help in the trenches. Su’a-Filo’s versatility could intrigue Coach Andy Reid enough to warrant the No. 23 pick.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: DE Kony Ealy, Missouri: Ealy might be a surprise top-15 pick thanks to the prioritization of pass rushers, but if he’s available when Cincinnati is on the clock, the Bengals could add defensive talent to help replace the departed Michael Johnson.
25. San Diego Chargers: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State: San Diego could use some secondary help, and Dennard has the physicality to be a potential steal at the back of the first round.
26. Cleveland Browns: CB Jason Verrett, TCU: Addressing QB with their first pick of the round, the Browns could then shift their attention to defense, where Verrett could have an impacting presence opposite Joe Haden in the secondary.
27. New Orleans Saints: DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame: A cornerback like Bradley Roby could be an option for the Saints, but the potential for Nix to be a plug in the middle of New Orleans’ defense could be similarly tempting.
28. Carolina Panthers: WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State: The Panthers added veteran receivers in free agency, but they are still expected to pursue a play-maker. Cooks, a smaller guy with big-play abilities, could be just the answer Carolina is looking for.
29. New England Patriots: DT Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota: He’s been described as somewhat of a boom-or-bust prospect, but Hageman could be a hybrid piece for Bill Belichick’s defense in New England.
30. Minnesota Vikings (*projected trade with 49ers): QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville: Stockpiling picks in its projected trade with the 49ers, Minnesota could find itself in perfect position at the back of the round. In Bridgewater, who was at one time ranked atop this year’s draft class, the Vikings could add a notable successor to Matt Cassel.
31. Denver Broncos: CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska: A speedy linebacker like Ryan Shazier would be ideal for Denver, but the Broncos are also in need of cornerback help after losing two starters. Jean-Baptiste isn’t as well known as, say, Roby, but has intriguing size.
32. Seattle Seahawks: WR Cody Latimer, Indiana: The Seahawks could use some help along the offensive line, but Latimer seems like just the kind of guy that could develop into a regular standout in Seattle’s receiving corps.