2014 NFL Mock Draft (Feb. 14th update)
Based (at least in part) on the (un)availability of Radio City Music Hall in New York City in April, the 2014 NFL Draft will be held a few weeks later than usual (May 8-10) this year.
From now until May 8th, I will make weekly updates to this mock and include additional rounds as we get closer. Ultimately, the goal will be a full seven-round mock draft.
With the start of the NFL free-agency period nearly a month away (March 11th), however, team needs for many franchises could change significantly over the next month. That said, this mock draft is based on what we know up to this point.
Follow me on Twitter (@EDSFootball) to keep track of my mock (and all other site) updates.
For a second opinion (sort of), check out a collaboration mock I recently did with Sean Beazley, who picked for AFC teams, while I picked for NFC teams. For even more mocks, check out our 2014 NFL Mock Draft Database.
Without further ado, here is my 2014 NFL Mock Draft:
Loaded with much more talent than their record suggests, the Texans were a popular pick to win the division and possibly get to (or even win) the Super Bowl. Instead, the Texans have closed the season with a franchise-record 14-game losing streak, fired their head coach and benched starting quarterback Matt Schaub.
Neither Schaub nor Case Keenum is the long-term answer at quarterback, but the good news is new coach Bill O'Brien and the new Texans coaching staff own the top pick to help start the next era with their guy.
When asked who the Texans will select with the first overall pick, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle recently tweeted: "Each day I get asked multiple times: Who are Texans drafting? I tell them 1 of the 3 top QBs. Forget about any other position."
As tempting as it may be to pair a tandem of physical freaks at defensive end with J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, I agree with McClain that quarterback is going to be the pick. The question remains, however: Which one?
While Teddy Bridgewater is the most polished quarterback in this class and Johnny Manziel may be the most exciting (and polarizing), neither has the upside of Bortles.
Not only was Clowney's motivation and effort questioned this season, but his on-field production dropped significantly — 23.5 tackles for loss and 13.0 sacks in 2012; only 10.5 TFL and 3.0 sacks this year.
With that said, Clowney, the top prospect on our consensus big board, is a physical freak and once-in-a-decade type of defensive line prospect.
While Clowney recently stated that it's his goal to run a 4.4 forty at the combine later this month, it's his interviews, not physical workouts (as impressive as they may be), that matter the most in Indianapolis.
While some mocks may project an offensive tackle here (and I think that's the pick if Clowney does go No. 1), the Rams will likely try to trade down to acquire additional picks. If they are unable to do so, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will have a ferocious pass rush with the addition of Clowney to the talented tandem of Robert Quinn and Chris Long.
[Related: See list of NFL Scouting Combine invites here.]
After an 0-8 start before the bye, the Jaguars went .500 in their final eight games and have a few reasons to be optimistic about the direction of the team. One of the reasons for optimism, however, is not their quarterback play. Whether or not Blaine Gabbert is back in 2014, he is not the long-term answer and he is scheduled to become a free agent in 2015.
While some may question his frame and/or his level of competition, Bridgewater is a highly accurate passer with the ability to make all of the throws and possesses all of the intangibles and leadership you'd want in a franchise quarterback.
The Browns have several young talented players, but it's been a long time since they've had a franchise quarterback. Since the franchise returned to Cleveland in 1999, the Browns have had a league-leading (or really a league-worst) 20 starting quarterbacks.
Even though they (a previous regime) selected Brandon Weeden in the first round in 2012, he is not in the team's long-term plans. On the other hand, Brian Hoyer played well before an ACL injury sidelined him for the rest of the season and he has a shot to be the team's starter in Week 1 even if they draft a quarterback like I'm projecting.
One of the most exciting and polarizing players in college football, Manziel, the first-ever freshman Heisman Trophy winner (in 2012), threw for 3,732 yards, 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and ran for another 686 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013.
With the ability to avoid pressure and make plays on the run, Manziel improved quite a bit as a passer in 2013. In addition, Alabama coach Nick Saban called him one of the most competitive players he has ever faced. That said, Manziel will need to learn (a la Russell Wilson) to better avoid hits instead of seeking that extra yard or two.
In an ideal world, the Raiders hope that one of the first four players off the board in this mock fall to them at No. 5. That said, left tackle Jared Veldheer is currently set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Although the Raiders drafted Menelik Watson in the second round last year, Matthews (or Auburn's Greg Robinson) could be the pick especially if the team doesn't re-sign Veldheer.
Matthews, the son of Hall-of-Famer Bruce, was a first-team AP All-American in 2013 one year after sliding over from right tackle to protect Johnny Football.
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Tied with the Raiders, Vikings and Seahawks, the Falcons allowed the 10th-most sacks in the NFL last season. While Matthews is most pro-ready tackle in the draft, none have a higher ceiling than Robinson.
One of the biggest (literally) reasons that Auburn led the nation in rushing offense was Robinson. His college teammate Avery Young, brother of Lions DL Willie Young, said (via al.com): "Greg's a beast. He's so strong. At the same time, he's so athletic. The only person I know who can do backflips at his size."
While character concerns dropped Mike Williams in the draft four years ago, there was a report that Williams racked up more than $200,000 in fines for being late to meetings or missing rehab days. Even though Vincent Jackson has been highly productive (2,608 yards in his two seasons), he turned 31 years old last month.
With Watkins, they get a guy that has the potential to develop into a second No. 1 type of receiver. Bouncing back from a disappointing sophomore campaign, Watkins had 101 catches for 1,464 and 12 touchdowns and closed out his collegiate career with a record-setting performance (16-227-2) in the Orange Bowl.
In my previous update, I had the Vikings going with Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr. And with Christian Ponder being the only quarterback under contract, that is certainly still an option here.
One of college football's most productive players ever, Mack is the all-time leader in forced fumbles (16) and is tied for the most tackles for loss (75) in NCAA history. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah recently compared Mack to another linebacker within this division: Green Bay's Clay Matthews.
A first team All-ACC selection, Ebron set the conference record for most receiving yards in a season by a tight end this year. In fact, he has been compared to San Francisco's Vernon Davis, who previously held the record, due to his size and athleticism.
Even with two Day 2 picks at corner over the past couple of years, you can never have enough talented cornerbacks and the Lions ranked 23rd in the NFL in passing defense.
The first cornerback off the board in my mock, Dennard, the recipient of the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation's best defensive back, and he was a consensus first-team All-American.
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