BBD Editor: Dan Hope
After two additional weeks of speculation, through which many have expressed agony and anxiety, the eve of the 2014 NFL Draft is finally upon us. And yet, even with the extra 14 days to figure it all out, it still seems as though no one—even the teams themselves—really knows what’s going to happen when the draft begins Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET.
Despite everyone’s best efforts, there will ultimately be trades made and players picked throughout the draft at spots no one saw coming. Nonetheless, here is my final shot at educatedly projecting who will go where with all 256 picks of this year’s selection meeting.
1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
It’s possible the Texans could opt for Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack or trade down with a team such as the Atlanta Falcons or even the Buffalo Bills, but if they stay put, selecting Jadeveon Clowney remains the most likely scenario. A special talent with a rare physical skill set, Clowney would give Houston a star opposite J.J. Watt with the versatility to play both defensive end and outside linebacker in new defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel’s scheme.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
It’s widely assumed that the Rams want to trade down from the No. 2 pick, but whether they end up doing so could depend on how far they’re willing to move down and how much they’re asking for in return. Should a team such as the Atlanta Falcons or Tampa Bay Buccaneers look to move up, the Rams might be able to trade down and still land Jake Matthews, but he’d be the best choice even if they stay put. The No. 1 overall player on my big board, Matthews can be an immediate upgrade at right tackle and an eventual successor to Jake Long at left tackle.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins have also been rumored for this pick, but I don’t see Khalil Mack getting outside the top three. A perfect fit to play the “LEO” hybrid pass-rusher spot in Jacksonville’s defense, he would bring a star difference-maker to a defense that doesn’t have one.
4. Cleveland Browns: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Many would be shocked to see Mike Evans drafted ahead of Sammy Watkins, but with Johnny Manziel reportedly out of the picture according to Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, that’s how I see it playing out for the Browns. Watkins would give the Browns another deep threat opposite Josh Gordon, but Evans would bring a new element to Cleveland’s offense with his ability to use his size to win jump balls and create mismatches.
5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
The Raiders have been one of the teams most heavily linked to rumors of trading down, but if Sammy Watkins is still on the board, I’d expect it would take a too-good-to-pass-up offer for them to move down. After coming up short in their pursuit of DeSean Jackson following his release, the Raiders likely remain in the market for a No. 1 receiving playmaker. That’s what they could get from the dynamic Watkins.
6. Atlanta Falcons: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
While the Falcons could be tempted to trade up for Clowney or Mack, it’s less likely they would do so if they can stay put and land Greg Robinson. A perfect fit for the power scheme Atlanta is likely to run, the massive, explosive Robinson could be an immediate upgrade at right tackle and a potential successor to Sam Baker at left tackle.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Despite the rumors of a mass quarterback freefall outside the top 10, I don’t see it happening. According to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, the Buccaneers could even trade up to the No. 2 overall pick to select Johnny Manziel, but they might just be able to stay put and select him. While Tampa Bay has more pressing needs than quarterback, it’s evident the team doesn’t view Mike Glennon as its franchise guy, and could be hard-pressed to pass upon a playmaker like Manziel.
8. Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Vikings might be able to trade down and still land Teddy Bridgewater, but with teams like the Browns potentially lurking to trade down, they should select him with the No. 8 overall pick if they want him. The most complete and pro-ready quarterback in this year’s draft class, he could emerge as an immediate starter in Minnesota.
9. Buffalo Bills: Zack Martin, OT/G, Notre Dame
The selection of Martin might not be a pick that all Bills fans are excited by, but it’s one that’s seeming increasingly likely, as Buffalo fits the description presented by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King as a “team in the top 10 seriously considering him.” Buffalo would likely look to trade down and get better value in this scenario, but they might have to stay put if they want Martin.
10. Detroit Lions: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Odell Beckham Jr. as a top-10 pick would be mildly surprising, but it probably shouldn’t be. A prospect who has steadily risen up projections leading up to the draft, Beckham is an explosive athlete who runs crisp routes and has great hands. Known for their best player available strategy, Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald could also be the pick here, but Beckham could be considered that as well and would give the Lions a passing weapon who can play both outside and in the slot.
11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
One of the only picks that has steadily remained unchanged in my mock drafts for months, Anthony Barr is an explosive athlete who would bring a much-needed pass-rushing spark to the Titans as they switch to a 3-4 defense.
12. New York Giants: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
The Giants shouldn’t pass up Aaron Donald’s value if he’s still on the board at No. 12 overall. He is an explosive interior penetrator who could add a difference-maker to a defensive line that isn’t as formidable as the ones that led the team to two Super Bowl championships earlier this century.
13. St. Louis Rams: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Needing to bolster their secondary, the Rams shouldn’t pass up the draft’s most talented defensive back if they have a shot at selecting him with their second first-round pick. Gilbert has all the tools to be a No. 1 cornerback and the playmaker St. Louis lacks at the position opposite Janoris Jenkins.
14. Chicago Bears: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The Bears have a massive need at defensive tackle, so they very well might be inclined to take a chance on Ra’Shede Hageman at the No. 14 overall pick. He is a high-risk, high-reward pick who has the physical tools to excel at either defensive tackle spot in a 4-3, but his game needs significant technical development for him to reach his potential.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Ike Taylor is a shell of the player he was in his prime, so the Steelers have a major need for cornerback help. A fluid athlete and well-rounded defensive back who plays with physicality and has great ball skills, Fuller is a good fit for the Pittsburgh defense and could be exactly what the Steelers are looking for in their secondary.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
The Cowboys’ biggest needs come in the trenches, but they could also be in the market for a safety upgrade if the right playmaker falls to them. That player could be Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who is the best safety in this year’s draft class and would give the Cowboys a ballhawk and hard hitter in center field.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
If Taylor Lewan falls to the second half of Round 1, the Ravens could be hard-pressed to pass upon him. Baltimore will have to feel comfortable with Lewan’s character to make this selection, but he could be an immediate upgrade at right tackle and is arguably the most talented player on the board, which falls in line with general manager Ozzie Newsome’s typical draft strategy, at No. 17 overall.
18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The Jets could be looking to trade up to land one of the draft’s top receivers, but landing Eric Ebron at the 18th pick would be an ideal scenario. A gifted athlete who can stretch the field over the middle and create mismatches wherever he lines up, Ebron is exactly what the Jets lack at the tight end position.
19. Denver Broncos (from Miami Dolphins): Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
PROJECTED TRADE: The Miami Dolphins trade the No. 19 overall pick to the Denver Broncos for the Nos. 31 and 63 overall selections.
After filling just about all of their immediate needs in free agency, the Denver Broncos can afford to make a move up, and could do so in continuing their seemingly “all in” approach. On the other end of the spectrum, the Miami Dolphins need an offensive lineman, but the value on the board is lacking in this scenario.
The one position where the Broncos still need an upgraded starter is at middle linebacker, and either Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier or Alabama’s C.J. Mosley could fill that need. While Mosley is a more natural fit at middle linebacker, there have been rumblings that Mosley could slide down the board due to a medical concerns while Shazier’s stock has seemingly gone nowhere but up.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
Often compared to Ben Roethlisberger, Blake Bortles is a perfect fit to be Arizona’s quarterback of the future under head coach Bruce Arians. This would also be a good fit for Bortles, who has the best physical tools among the top quarterbacks in the class but needs to improve upon some fundamental flaws, and would benefit from a year of learning behind veteran Carson Palmer.
21. Green Bay Packers: Jimmie Ward, FS, Northern Illinois
After a disastrous year at the position with M.D. Jennings last season, the Packers need an athletic cover safety who can handle center-field responsibilities. There aren’t many safeties in this draft who are ready to take on that role, but Jimmie Ward is one of them.
22. Philadelphia Eagles: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Having released DeSean Jackson earlier this offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles should be in the market for another receiver early in this year’s draft. Marqise Lee, who should be well-known by the Eagles as a former collegiate adversary of Chip Kelly when Kelly was at Oregon, and a former receiver for Eagles backup quarterback Matt Barkley when he was at USC, is a smooth route-runner who glides in the open field and could play both outside and in the slot.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: Xavier Su’a-Filo, G, UCLA
After losing Branden Albert, Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah in free agency this offseason, the Chiefs are in need of offensive line reinforcement, specifically at the right guard position. They could fill that hole quickly by selecting Xavier Su’a-Filo, the draft’s best all-around interior offensive lineman.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU
A do-it-all linebacker who excels in space and in coverage but is also a skilled pass-rusher off the edge, Kyle Van Noy would give the Bengals another defensive playmaker as an ideal replacement for James Harrison at strongside linebacker.
25. San Diego Chargers: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
The Chargers might not even have one starting-caliber cornerback on their roster, so drafting one early should be a priority. An explosive athlete with great ball skills and physicality, Jason Verrett is arguably the draft’s most skilled cornerback and would likely be off the board by this point if not for his lack of size.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts): Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
If the Browns pass upon Manziel and the other top quarterbacks with the No. 4 overall pick, they could be targeting Derek Carr with their second pick in Round 1. An accurate pocket passer with a strong arm and good athleticism, Carr could emerge as the best quarterback in this year’s class if he can fix his major issues with throwing against pressure.
27. New Orleans Saints: Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
If the Saints are going to use more 3-4 defensive looks in their second season under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, they need to add another hybrid pass-rusher with the athleticism to transition well to outside linebacker. Dee Ford, an explosive athlete who flies around the corner, could give the Saints defense a spark and another core young player.
28. Carolina Panthers: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Starting from scratch at the position after losing all four wide receivers who caught passes for the team last season, the Panthers need to add a playmaker to their offense. That’s what they would get from Brandin Cooks, whose combination of speed and agility makes him a big-play threat any time the ball is in his hands.
29. Minnesota Vikings (from New England Patriots): C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
PROJECTED TRADE: The New England Patriots trade the No. 29 overall pick to the Minnesota Vikings for the Nos. 40, 96 and 148 overall selections.
When Cordarrelle Patterson fell to the No. 29 overall pick in last year’s draft, the Minnesota Vikings sent four picks to the New England Patriots to move back into Round 1 and select him. If C.J. Mosley falls to this spot, the Vikings could be enticed to move up again, where the Patriots will likely be looking to trade down again. At a slightly smaller package than they gave up to jump 23 spots last year, Minnesota could move up 11 to land the draft’s best middle linebacker and fill a need.
30. San Francisco 49ers: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The 49ers have the ammunition to move up in this year’s draft, and Darqueze Dennard could be one of their targets if they make a trade, but San Francisco could get great value if he falls to this selection. While Dennard isn’t as physically gifted as the cornerbacks drafted above him, he is a good fit for San Francisco because of his excellence in press coverage and experience playing both man and zone coverage.
31. Miami Dolphins (from Denver Broncos): Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Cyrus Kouandjio could be the Dolphins’ pick even if they stay at the No. 19 overall slot, but Miami could get better value on him, or another offensive line prospect, by moving down. On a unit that is replacing four starters from last season, Kouandjio would likely be drafted to start at right tackle, but could also project inside at guard.
32. Seattle Seahawks: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
After their free-agent run at veteran defensive end Jared Allen came up short, expect the Seahawks to add another pass-rusher in this year’s draft. Crichton, a well-rounded defensive end who is good at getting around the edge but is also a strong edge-setter versus the run, could be exactly what Seattle needs for its defensive end rotation with Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.
See page 2 for Round 2 projections.