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2014 NFL Mock Draft

Last Updated: April 21, 2014
Lou Pickney,

Note: if you missed the pictures of Jadeveon Clowney doing menacing-type things on the football field that initially served as a page holder, you can see that page here.

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A few weeks out from the draft and the projections are as muddled as they've been in years. With a mix of uncertainty of Houston's intention (and I still don't think they know what they will do yet) to St. Louis a likely candidate to trade down from #2, we're light years away from Andrew Luck and RG3 as locks for the top two spots from 2012.

You might notice that Derek Carr didn't make the top 32 this time around, though if he's hanging around late in round one I could see a team needing a QB trading up to get him. But if not, he could be part of the projected rush at QB early in round two that includes Pitt's Tom Savage and Easetern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo.

2014 NFL Mock Draft

1. Houston Texans - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (6'5" 265) ~
The Texans have a very strong need at quarterback, but in a draft where there is no can't miss or even consensus top pick, the best defensive prospect in years really should be the top pick. Here we are in late April and there's still no clear-cut top QB? That should tell you volumes. Houston needs to work smart here.

People who have declared Clowney as "lazy" can stick it. He should have been in the NFL two years ago, but thanks to age discrimination against the young in the country being tolerated to a disturbing level, the NFL's "three years out of high school" rule that provides college football with the cheap labor that fuels the massive cash machine remains in place.

To be sure, Clowney is a stronger man than me in more ways than one. I would have told South Carolina, the NCAA and the critics to all piss off after this play in late August. He saw what happened to his teammate Marcus Lattimore after suffering season-ending knee injuries in 2011 and 2012.

It also didn't help that Clowney got the Tim Tebow treatment by ESPN early in the 2013 season where every play was scrutinized and he was talked about an inordinate amount to the point of turning fans against him. He was consistently double-and-triple teamed on plays but remained a noteworthy force, particularly on running plays where even multiple blockers often couldn't stop him.

2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington) - Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo (6'3" 250)
The last course served by the Red Lobster as part of that horrible March 2012 trade made by the Redskins will be the tastiest of the bunch for the Rams.

There is plenty of speculation that the Falcons (or someone else) will move up to this spot to obtain Clowney if he falls. But if he doesn't? Yes, offensive tackle might be a consideration here. But the Rams are in a unique spot where they can double down on defense with their two first round picks and be well-stocked to go to war with Seattle and San Francisco in the loaded NFL West.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Blake Bortles, QB, UCF (6'5" 230) ~
With the Blaine Gabbert era officially over, Jacksonville will likely take a quarterback here if Clowney isn't on the board. Bortles has prototype height, taller than even UCF itself listed him (and schools are known to bump stats up but almost never down), and that could earn him the nod over Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel.

4. Cleveland Browns - Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (6'0" 200) ~
How important is quarterback in the modern NFL? Last year the Browns had a breakout season from wide receiver Josh Gordon, a typically solid performance by elite left tackle Joe Thomas, and cornerback Joe Haden remaining among the best in the league at his position. They finished #9 in the league in total yards allowed and #8 in passing yards allowed.

But they lacked an elite or even a mid-level talent at quarterback, and the result was a 4-12 disaster that lead to a second consecutive season of wholesale management and coaching changes. Cleveland absolutely must come out of this draft with a QB who can go from the start, and in this scenario it would appear that Manziel gives them the best shot at that. Plus he would energize a franchise whose tortured fanbase deserves much better than it has been given over the past two decades.

5. Oakland Raiders - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (6'1" 205) ~
There seems to be considerable chatter that Watkins won't fall out of the top five. That remains to be seen, but with Clowney and three QBs gone he makes as much sense as anyone for Oakland in this spot. I realize that Matt Schaub is not exactly going to be inspiring awe from the Raider Nation after what happened in Houston last year, but there will be chance to add QB depth later in the draft.

6. Atlanta Falcons - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina (6'4" 250) ~
This might be higher than where you would expect a tight end to go, but with passing being so important in the modern NFL and teams with elite tight end talent showing so much success (e.g. Patriots, Saints, even the Falcons of two years ago) it makes sense that Atlanta would want to replace the now-retired Tony Gonzalez with a top-level tight end talent. Unless the Falcons manage to trade up to get Clowney, of course.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn (6'5" 330) ~
Most like it's going to be offensive tackle or defensive end for the Bucs, and being in position to choose from the entire offensive line crop would be a great start for the new regime in Tampa. Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews might also be a consideration for this spot.

8. Minnesota Vikings - Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (6'2" 215) ~
Bridgewater might have had a disappointing pro day, and there are some naysayers sniping at him from several positions in the media and online. He's still my favorite QB prospect out of the bunch and would be a bargain pickup for the Vikings here in my estimation.

9. Buffalo Bills - HaHa Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama (6'1" 210) ~
With free safety Jairus Byrd gone to New Orleans in a big money deal, replacing his spot in the starting lineup will be of paramount importance in the draft. Louisville FS Calvin Pryor might also be a consideration here.

And, for the record, it's HaHa without any spaces between the first and second Ha. And if you wonder how to say it properly, watch this video -- the third time was the charm.

10. Detroit Lions - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State (6'0" 200)
Either Gilbert or Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard would fill a long-standing need for a top flight cornerback in Detroit. Gilbert's stock has been on the rise after running a sub 4.4 40 at the combine, though don't count out Dennard on ending up as the first DB to go in the draft. 2013 second-round pick Darius Slay had a rough rookie season, but even if he develops into the form expected of him by Detroit, the Lions could definitely use help in their secondary.

11. Tennessee Titans - Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M (6'5" 310)
Tennessee bolstered its interior offensive line considerably in the 2013 off-season. With this pick it could provide strength at the all-important offensive tackle position with the son of a player in Bruce Matthews who had an NFL Hall of Fame career for the Oilers/Titans franchise, though it would also be somewhat awkward with the Titans having just released Bruce Matthews from his duties as an assistant coach.

12. New York Giants - Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA (6'5" 245)
One would theorize that Barr would likely play OLB in the Giants' 4-3 set, potentially filling a strong need for the team. Whether it's Barr or Alabama LB C.J. Mosley, a high-end linebacker prospect would be a good start for the Giants.

13. St. Louis Rams - Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville (5'11" 210) ~
If Clinton-Dix isn't available here, Pryor would also fill a need for a Rams team that could sneak up on people in 2014. Michigan OT Taylor Lewan might also be a consideration here, though most indications are that OT Jake Long is on track to be ready to start the 2014 season after tear the ACL and MCL in his right knee in December.

14. Chicago Bears - Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State (6'2" 300) ~
With the signing of QB Jay Cutler to a long-term deal, doing something to address the team's abhorrently bad run defense would be a wise move. Jernigan should help with that along with bringing an added pass rush force from the 4-3 defensive tackle spot, something more valuable than ever in the NFL. Pitt DT Aaron Donald might also be a consideration at this spot.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers - C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama (6'2" 235)
Mosley played in a 3-4 defense at Alabama and has shown versatility, elite skill and strong leadership skills. He would be a much welcomed addition to Pittsburgh's front seven, which is in need of an upgrade.

16. Dallas Cowboys - Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt (6'1" 285)
Donald could serve as a replacement for DT Jason Hatcher, who signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins. The "Tampa Two" defense is predicated on the front four providing sufficient pressure on opposing quarterbacks, something Hageman should help with quite well.

17. Baltimore Ravens - Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (6'7" 310)
From champs to out of the playoffs, the Ravens would be well-served to rebuild in 2014 by adding some new offensive weapons, particularly with someone with the ability at the tight end position like Ebron. His 4.6 time in the 40 at the combine only helped to boost his draft stock.

18. New York Jets - Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M (6'5" 230) ~
The Jets offense is in desperate need of some playmakers, and Evans has proven to fit that mold in his time in College Station. At 6'5" Evans is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses and, along with free agent signee Eric Decker, would be a much-needed addition to the Jets' wide receiving corps.

19. Miami Dolphins - Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame (6'4" 310)
After the Incognito/Martin fiasco, targeting an offensive lineman here makes a great deal of sense for Miami. I'm not as bullish on Martin as some are, but his stock is on the rise and him going in a top 20 slot is entirely possible.

20. Arizona Cardinals - Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State (6'1" 235) *
With the top two safeties off the board, the Cardinals could go in a number of different directions here. A super-speedy tackling machine at OLB like Shazier would be a logical addition, particularly with Sam Ocho and the soon-to-be-36 John Abraham playing on expiring deals this fall.

21. Green Bay Packers - Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech (6'5" 265) ~
This would fill a need for the Packers and provide Aaron Rodgers with a more-than-capable receiving threat to replace Jermichael Finley at tight end.

22. Philadelphia Eagles - Marqise Lee, WR, USC (6'0" 195) ~
After dealing with injuries to his right shoulder and left knee this past season, Lee is healthy and back to his electrifying form. Chip Kelly is certainly familiar with Lee from his time coaching at Oregon, and with DeSean Jackson gone this move makes even more sense than it did before.

23. Kansas City Chiefs - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State (6'5" 235) ~
Kansas City had a remarkable turnaround in year one of the Andy Reid era, but adding another receiving threat could make things even better in year two for the team.

24. Cincinnati Bengals - Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri (6'4" 275) ~
While the Bengals signed DE Carlos Dunlap to a long-term contract extension before the season, it's all but certain that 2013 franchise-tagged DE Michael Johnson will be gone when free agency begins this upcoming week.

25. San Diego Chargers - Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State (5'11" 195)
The Chargers could use help at cornerback and Dennard would be considered a major bargain at this spot. There are far worse possible scenarios for San Diego than this one.

26. Cleveland Browns (via Indianapolis) - Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State (5'10" 190) ~
Remember when people were ridiculing the Browns for dealing Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for this pick? Now it looks like one of the most one-sided trades in recent NFL history.

If the Browns don't land a QB here or trade for Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr might be a consideration here if he's on the board. If not, adding talent at wide receiver would be a logical move. Cooks had a monster season in 2013 for the Beavers and could become a tremendous weapon in the slot for Cleveland. His 4.33 40 at the combine was tops among wide receivers, and that along with his 2013 Biletnikoff Award has given the man known as "Sonic Boom" (double Seattle gimmick infringement) a huge push up draft boards.

27. New Orleans Saints - Jason Varrett, CB, TCU (5'9" 190) ~
With the Saints making all kinds of cuts, the team has several options for this spot. But this could be where the run on second-tier cornerback prospects begins, with Varrett nudging ahead of the pack with his 4.38 40 yard dash time at the combine.

28. Carolina Panthers - Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU (5'11" 200)
Wide receiver is a huge need for Carolina and there should be several viable options here, including Beckham. Steve Smith won't play forever and Cam Newton could use a young, reliable target to throw to in 2014.

29. New England Patriots - Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame (6'3" 340) ~
C'mon, like there's ever any accurate predicting of what Bill Belichick is going to do.

30. San Francisco 49ers - Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (5'11" 195) ~
The 49ers are a team with many options, but adding some youth to its cornerback group would be a wise move.

31. Denver Broncos - Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State (6'3" 275) ~
This might be the spot where Denver tries to make amends for the Elvis Dumervil fiasco of 2013.

32. Seattle Seahawks - Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State (6'2" 220) ~
Robinson isn't a burner type threat, but he has great size and would add another target to Seattle's already potent offensive attack.

~ indicates player with NCAA eligibility for 2014 who declared for the 2014 NFL Draft

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