2014 NFL Mock Draft: Post-Free Agency 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.
Follow me on Twitter (@EDSFootball) to keep track of my mock (and all other site) updates.
For a second opinion, check out our 2014 NFL Mock Draft Database for other mocks around the internet.
Without further ado, here is my updated 2014 NFL Mock Draft:
Possessing much more talent than last year's 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 closed the season with a franchise-record 14-game losing streak, fired their head coach and benched starting quarterback Matt Schaub, who was recently traded to the Raiders.
With the first overall pick in this year's draft, the new coaching staff has their choice of quarterbacks with whom to begin the next era if they so choose.
When asked who the Texans will select with the first overall pick, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle previously 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 one physical freak, J.J. Watt, with another, Jadeveon Clowney, I agree with McClain that quarterback is going to be the pick. The question remains, however: Which one of the three?
Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater is the most polished quarterback in this class even if his Pro Day did not show it. That said, there are concerns about Bridgewater's slender frame and ability to hold up to the pounding a quarterback can take.
On the other hand, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel had a stellar Pro Day performance on Thursday and his improvisational style makes him one of the most exciting players to watch. Plus, being an in-state prospect is another positive from a non-football (i.e., marketing) standpoint. With that said, Johnny Football has his own share of concerns: his celebrity persona (although he's saying the right things this offseason), ability to win within structure of offense as opposed to relying on athleticism, lack of height, etc.
Last but not least, Bortles has the prototypical size (6-5, 235), arm strength and mobility that teams covet in a franchise quarterback. Not only did Bill O'Brien get a firsthand view of Bortles as he led UCF to a win over O'Brien's Penn State team last year, but O'Brien was once part of George O'Leary's staff and that may lead to additional comfort and confidence in selecting Bortles to be the future face of the franchise.
With the draft more than a month away, there is one thing that is certain: St. Louis will attempt to trade down from this slot to acquire additional picks. In an ideal world, the Rams, who own two top-13 picks, would like to move down a few spots to acquire additional draft picks.
If they are unable to move down, it could be a different choice between Jadeveon Clowney, the top prospect on our consensus big board, Clemson's Sammy Watkins and an offensive tackle like Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews.
Although Clowney is a once-in-a-decade type of prospect, the Rams had 53 sacks (third in NFL) last year and already have a dynamic duo of Robert Quinn and Chris Long at defensive end. Meanwhile, the Rams have used numerous early picks on receivers over the past few seasons. In fact, they have five top-100 selections at the position in their past three drafts including Tavon Austin at No. 8 overall last season.
Meanwhile, Robinson has the upside to be a dominant left (or right) tackle for the next decade. While Jake Long is recovering from a torn ACL, the team re-signed Rodger Saffold only after he failed a physical with the Raiders. Either way, the Rams can move Saffold inside to guard.
Although the Tigers did not throw often, Robinson has all of the physical tools to develop as a pass blocker: elite size (6-5, 332 pounds), arm length (35 inches) and athleticism (4.92 40-yard dash). And one of the biggest (literally) reasons that Auburn led the nation in rushing offense was Robinson.
If Clowney is still on the board at this spot, the Jags could be doing some backflips themselves.
Perhaps there would be some debate here for the Jaguars as they really need a franchise quarterback, but I can't see them passing up a talent like Clowney. If so, they could look for someone like Jimmy Garropolo with their early second-round pick.
Clowney's motivation and effort was questioned by many last season and 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 in 2013. That said, opposing defenses schemed to slow down Clowney with double and triple teams.
Viewed as a once-in-a-decade type of defensive line prospect, Clowney is a physical freak that ran an official 4.53 (unofficial 4.47) 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine last month.
The Jags were tied with the Bears for last in the league in sacks (31), but Clowney is a major step towards significantly upgrading Gus Bradley's pass rush to go along with some solid moves via free agency.
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.
Before an ACL injury sidelined him last season, Brian Hoyer played well and he has a shot to be the team's starter in Week 1 even if they draft a quarterback like I'm projecting here.
One of the most exciting, improvisational 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 also 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 my pre-free agency update (and most mock updates prior to that), I had the Raiders selecting an offensive tackle. And there certainly is the possibility that they still do so. After losing Jared Veldheer in free agency, they signed Saffold, who then failed his physical. After that, they added tackles Donald Penn and Austin Howard.
Aside from losing Veldheer, the Raiders also lost Lamarr Houston, their leading pass-rusher (6.0 sacks) last season.
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 Green Bay's Clay Matthews.
Perhaps the Falcons will be the team to move up in a trade with the Rams in order to secure a prospect like Clowney. In fact, Clowney is hoping for it.
In previous updates of my mock, I had the Falcons using this pick on Mack, but he's now off the board. The Falcons were tied with the Texans for 29th in the league in sacks so they will look to bolster their pass rush in the draft.
If Clowney and Mack are off the board, Matthews is a tremendous consolation prize. The Falcons are a pass-first team as they ranked third in the league in pass attempts so improving their protection of Matt Ryan should be another top priority for the team.
While character concerns dropped Mike Williams in the draft three 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 last year. In addition, Williams was recently stabbed in the leg by his brother.
Even though Vincent Jackson has been highly productive (2,608 yards in his two seasons), he turned 31 years old last month.
With Watkins, the Bucs get the clear-cut top receiver prospect in this year's draft and he's an excellent value at seventh overall. 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.
Despite drafting Christian Ponder in the first round a few years ago and re-signing Matt Cassell on Saturday to a two-year contract, the Vikings long-term answer at quarterback is most likely not yet on the roster.
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 most polished quarterback in this year's draft class, Bridgewater remains my top-ranked quarterback prospect even if he isn't the first one off the board in this mock.
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.
One of the bigger winners at the Scouting Combine, Lewan (6-7, 309) ran the fastest 40-yard dash (4.87) among offensive linemen. In fact, only four offensive linemen have posted faster times since 2006. In addition to his athleticism, Lewan possesses the size (6-foot-7, 309 pounds), length (33 7/8-inch arms) and demeanor to excel as he stays in state to continue his professional career.
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