2014 NFL Mock Draft - Jadeveon Clowney still No. 1 Pick
Pushed back due to the (un)availability of Radio City Music Hall in April, the 2014 NFL Draft will get started a couple of weeks later compared to recent drafts.
While the extra two weeks may allow teams an opportunity to better evaluate a talented and deep draft class with an unprecented amount of underclassmen, many are frustrated by the delay and are even more eager for the draft to start.
The good news is the wait is down to hours and we will soon know which prospects will be headed to which NFL franchises.
Like usual, the draft will take place over the course of three days: Thursday (Round 1), Friday (Rounds 2 and 3) and Saturday (Rounds 4 through 7).
Without further ado, here is my updated 2014 NFL Mock Draft:
A popular pick to win the AFC South last year and possibly get to (or even win) Super Bowl XLVIII, the Texans began the season with two straight wins before losing a franchise-record 14 games to close the season. In addition to firing head coach Gary Kubiak this offseason, the Texans traded last year's starting quarterback Matt Schaub to the Raiders.
While the Texans have a major need at quarterback and there has been some recent speculation that the pick could be Buffalo's Khalil Mack, the Texans will most likely go with South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, the top prospect on our consensus big board if they don't trade down.
Viewed as a once-in-a-decade type of defensive line prospect, Clowney is a physical freak who ran an official 4.53 (unofficial 4.47) 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
Clowney's motivation and effort was questioned by some 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.
Joining forces with J.J. Watt, the Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, Clowney should help the Texans get to the quarterback more consistently this year. Only the Bears and Jags had fewer sacks than the Texans last season.
As inaccurate as draft predictions can be, there is one thing that is a virtual lock: St. Louis will attempt to trade down from this slot to acquire additional picks.
If Clowney is off the board, as he is in my mock, the choice will likely come down to Clemson's Sammy Watkins, the top receiver in the draft, and Robinson, the top offensive tackle in the draft, if the Rams are unable to find suitable trade partners.
Not only is receiver extremely deep, but 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 on their roster from their past three draft classes including Tavon Austin, who was selected eighth overall last season. I think they add another receiver with a top-100 pick, but I don't think it will be the second overall pick.
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. (Or they could move Robinson inside as a rookie.)
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.
His college teammate Avery 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."
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While the new regime in Jacksonville has the franchise heading in the right direction, they still have a major need at the sport's most important position. With Clowney and Robinson going No. 1 and 2 in my mock, however, the Jags would have their choice of quarterback in this year's draft if they so choose to go in that direction.
Going with Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles wouldn't be a shock based on need, but I think the Jags are thinking they will take Clowney, Mack or Watkins (in that order) based on who is still on the board at No. 3. If the Falcons, or another team, is interested in moving up to No. 3, I can see the Jags going with a quarterback at No. 6, as an example.
That said, the Jaguars have a defensive-minded head coach and are in dire need of a difference-making pass-rusher. No team recorded fewer sacks than the Jaguars (31) last season. If the Jags select Mack, they get 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.
This could be the spot where the first quarterback is selected; but it's not, based on my projection.
Watkins is 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.
With Josh Gordon on one side and Sammy Watkins on the other, the team's quarterback will have one of the league's best wide receiver duos at his disposal. Even though Gordon led the NFL in receiving last season despite being suspended for the first two games, there is the potential for a full-season suspension if he has another misstep. Watkins is not just a great complement to Gordon but also insurance for him.
The Raiders could go in a few directions here as I also considered Michigan's Taylor Lewan and Texas A&M's Mike Evans. While the team's need at quarterback remains high despite the acquisition of Matt Schaub, it appears unlikely that the Raiders will use their first-rounder on a signal-caller.
Although he may bit a bit undersized (6-0 3/4, 285 pounds), Donald appears to be a lock to be a top-10 selection on Thursday night. Extremely quick and explosive off the ball, Donald was highly productive for Pitt and the recipient of multiple offseason awards. He led the nation in tackles for loss (28.5) and had 11.0 sacks, which ranked 11th in the country. Over the past three seasons combined, Donald had 63.0 TFL and 27.5 sacks.
While it wouldn't surprise me if the Falcons trade up to address their need to add a pass-rusher, they need to make improvements in slowing down opposing pass-rushers as well. Last season, only Miami's Ryan Tannehill (58) and Baltimore's Joe Flacco (48) were sacked more often than Matt Ryan (44).
Technically sound and with a strong pedigree (son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews), Matthews has the versatility to play various spots on the offensive line. Last season, he moved to the left side to protect Manziel's blind side, but he excelled at right tackle before that.
Considering the Bucs have traded away Mike Williams to the Bills, Evans makes sense 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.
There are reports that the Vikes won't take a quarterback at No. 8 ... so, naturally, I have them taking the first quarterback in the draft. Ideally, I believe the Vikings would like to trade down from here to gather additional picks and still get a quarterback, but I think the pick makes sense if they don't move back.
Despite drafting Christian Ponder in the first round a few years ago and re-signing Matt Cassel to a two-year contract, the Vikings long-term answer at quarterback is (probably) not yet on the roster.
Bortles has the prototypical size (6-5, 235), arm strength and mobility that teams covet in a franchise quarterback. The American Athletic Conference's Offensive Player of the Year, Bortles threw for 3,581 yards, 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions while rushing for 272 yards and six touchdowns last year.
In my previous update, I had the Bills going with UNC tight end Eric Ebron. While that is still a possibility, Buffalo still takes a step toward helping their young quarterback in his second season. Bills starting left tackle Cordy Glenn has developed into one of the better young tackles in the league, but the Bills could consider someone like Lewan as an upgrade to Erik Pears on the right side.
A four-year starter for the Wolverines, Lewan (6-7, 309) was highly impressive at the NFL Scouting Combine as he 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.
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.