2014 NFL Mock Draft: The One-Month-To-Go 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 (at least) weekly updates to this mock and include additional rounds as we get closer. In fact, the plan is to add both Rounds 2 and 3 later this week. 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) Super Bowl XLVIII. Instead, the Texans closed the season with a franchise-worst 14-game losing streak, fired their head coach and benched starting quarterback Matt Schaub, who was traded to the Raiders this offseason.
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."
If they so choose, the new coaching staff will have their choice of quarterbacks with whom to begin the next era with the first overall pick in this year's draft.
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, Bridgewater's slender frame has led to concerns about his 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 and his improvisational style made him one of the most exciting players to watch in college football. From a marketing standpoint, Manziel is an in-state kid that would generate large appeal from the team's fan base. With that said, Johnny Football has his own share of concerns: his celebrity persona (although he has said the right things), his ability to win within structure of offense as opposed to relying on athleticism and improvisional skills, 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 one month away, there is one thing that is certain: St. Louis will attempt to trade down from this slot to acquire additional picks. If the Texans don't select Clowney with the first pick (and he's still available here), that should improve the Rams' chances of moving down to acquire additional picks.
If they are unable to move down, however, it could be a difficult choice between Clowney, the top prospect on our consensus big board, or a prospect like Clemson's Sammy Watkins and Auburn's Greg Robinson, both of whom would fill a greater need for the Rams.
Not only is receiver extremely deep in this year's draft class, 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 an elite pass blocker: great size (6-5, 332 pounds), arm length (35 inches) and athleticism (4.92 40-yard dash). And he's one of the biggest (literally) reasons that Auburn led the nation in rushing offense.
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If Clowney is still on the board at this spot, the Jags could be doing some backflips on their way to handing in their draft card.
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 Derek Carr or 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.
As noted earlier, Clowney is viewed as a once-in-a-decade type of defensive line prospect that is a physical freak who ran an official 4.53 (unofficial 4.47) 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
The Jags were tied with the Bears for last in the league in sacks (31). Not only did the Jags make some solid moves via free agency, but Clowney would be a major step towards significantly upgrading Gus Bradley's pass rush.
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 from the pocket 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.
Possessing numerous needs on their roster, the Raiders could go in a variety of directions including quarterback with this pick. In previous updates, I've had the Raiders selecting Buffalo's Khalil Mack or A&M's Jake Matthews and both of those picks would also make sense here.
With Watkins, however, the Raiders get the clear-cut top receiver prospect in this year's draft class. 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.
Perhaps the Falcons will be the team that moves up in a trade with the Rams in order to secure a prospect like Clowney. In fact, Clowney is hoping for it.
Whether they do or don't trade up for Clowney, it's clear they need to improve their pass rush. Only two teams — the Bears and Jaguars (31 each) — had fewer sacks last season than the Falcons (32), who were tied with the Texans. The only player on the roster with more than five sacks in 2013 was Osi Umenyiora (7.5 sacks), who will be a free agent after the upcoming 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 compared Mack to Green Bay's Clay Matthews.
In my previous update, Watkins slid to the Bucs at No. 7. Considering the Bucs have just traded away Mike Williams, Watkins would be a slam-dunk selection if he does slip to the Bucs. Even if he doesn't, it wouldn't be too surprising to see the Bucs go with another receiver like Evans here.
Even though Vincent Jackson has been highly productive (2,608 yards in his two seasons), he turned 31 years old last month. Interestingly enough, the NFL comparison that Evans most often gets is Jackson.
In his sophomore campaign, Evans had 1,322 yards and 12 touchdowns with a ton of production against Alabama and Auburn. In those two games combined, Evans had 18 catches for 566 yards and five touchdowns. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Evans would give new quarterback Josh McCown another big target.
Some may question his frame and/or his level of competition while his disappointing Pro Day performance did himself no favors. In some (other) mock drafts, I've seen Bridgewater slipping to the very end of the first round and even into the top of the second round. While anything can happen on draft day, it's hard for me to see that happening.
Not only is Bridgewater a highly accurate passer with the ability to make all of the throws, but he possesses the intelligence, 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.
Although I had the Bills selecting UNC tight end Eric Ebron in my previous update, Matthews would be a bigger value for the Bills if he were to slip to this spot. (In my last update, he was off the board before this point.)
Even though Cordy Glenn played extremely well last season, Matthews has the versatility to play either left or right tackle. Technically sound and the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, he is also an extremely safe pick.
Even with two Day 2 picks at corner over the past couple of years, the Lions still ranked 23rd in the NFL in passing defense. Especially considering the Lions have to face the elite passing attacks of Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, etc.) and Chicago (Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, etc.) at least four times per year, you can never have too many cornerbacks.
With excellent size (6-0 1/8, 202 pounds) and speed (4.37 forty), Gilbert has the cover skills and ball skills to make big plays and he also had five kick returns for touchdowns in college as well.
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