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Row12.com - A Community of Sports Writers and Fans!                                               ***Attention Writers***
 
2014 NFL Mock Draft 2.0
By Matt Horkman

1. Houston Texans -- Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
A popular theory has Houston trading for New England quarterback Ryan Mallett and selecting South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick. Any trade proposal, however, is mere conjecture at this point. Right now, the Texans need a quarterback and Bridgewater is the best in this draft. You’ll hear nitpicks regarding his skinny frame, but Bridgewater is a polished passer, who is ready to step in and start immediately.

2. St. Louis Rams -- Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Trading out of the No. 2 pick is probably the most likely scenario for St. Louis. There’s sure to be a ton of activity regarding the selection, especially as Clowney and a top-flight quarterback remains available. I believe Atlanta is the perfect trading partner, as they could then use the pick on Clowney. However, the Rams could just as easily take Clowney, who many regard as the draft’s best player. Adding him would give them a three-man rotation in their base defense. Also, they could easily kick him inside in sub-packages. The trio of Clowney, Chris Long, and Robert Quinn would give them the league’s most formidable defensive line.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
No team needs a quarterback as much as Jacksonville does. Blaine Gabbert is a bust and another year with Chad Henne starting has 4-12 written all over it. Drafting Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles is an option, but Jacksonville brass may find it too difficult to pass on Manziel. Many compare him to Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, but I believe the proper comparison is Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick. When a play breaks down, Manziel tucks the ball and runs. It’s his legs (and not his arm) that gives him his wow factor. This isn’t necessarily good for his long-term future, but the Jaguars could use a spark at the position.

4. Cleveland Browns -- Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
A strong senior bowl may have elevated Carr into the top 10. Carr is an interesting prospect. He was very productive for Fresno State last season and his quick release is comparable to Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino. That doesn’t mean he‘s the next Marino, though, as Carr sometimes makes poor decisions with the football. He also needs to work on his accuracy. Nevertheless, he has all the physical tools to develop into a franchise quarterback and I believe he’s ahead of Bortles in his development.

5. Oakland Raiders -- Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Football is in Matthews' blood. His father is Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews and his uncle is former Cleveland linebacker Clay Matthews. When you have a roster full of holes, the best drafting philosophy is to take the best player available. It would be surprising if general manager Reggie McKenzie did not abide by that strategy.

6. Atlanta Falcons -- Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
A masterful job in the SEC championship against Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy solidified Robinson’s status as a top 10 pick. He’s a mammoth tackle prospect that can step in and protect quarterback Matt Ryan’s blindside on day one. With that said, I have a hunch the Falcons will do their best to move up to select Clowney, so Robinson could just as easily be the fallback option for the Rams if they move down. In fact, it’s a perfect swap.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
By hiring Lovie Smith, Tampa's underachieving defense improved overnight. As a result, their off-season focus should be on upgrading the offensive side of the ball. After an historic performance in the Orange Bowl, Watkins figures to hear his name called in the first 10 picks. He’s a dynamic athlete, who made significant strides as a route runner last year. Pairing him with Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin gives Tampa a trio of skill players capable of putting points on the board.

8. Minnesota Vikings -- Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
You’ll probably get opinions across the spectrum regarding Bortles. Some view him as an elite prospect. Others (myself included) remain skeptical. The Vikings, however, are desperate to find a young signal caller to develop. Whether it’s Bortles or somebody else, it’s likely they’ll target one with their first pick.

9. Buffalo Bills -- Anthony Barr, DE/LB, UCLA
While Barr may indeed be one of the five best players in this draft, he isn’t a great fit for most of the teams picking in the top eight. As a result, he could fall into Buffalo’s lap. Barr’s a versatile defender. He’s capable of rushing as a defensive end or linebacker. He can also drop in coverage. Selecting him would give Buffalo a formidable front seven.

10. Detroit Lions -- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
An upgrade in the secondary would serve the Lions well, especially since they play in the same division as Chicago and Green Bay. Dennard thrives is man-coverage and uses his physicality to disrupt receivers downfield. This could leave him susceptible to penalties, but it’s a good trade to make, if he’s able to prevent a team’s No. 1 wide receiver from wreaking havoc on his defense.

11. Tennessee Titans -- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Entering the 2014 off-season, Tennessee is dealing with some ambiguity at safety. Will they re-sign Bernard Pollard? Will they part ways with Michael Griffin? Both played well in 2013, so there’s incentive to retain them, but the Titans owe Griffin a lot of money and Pollard may seek a long-term deal in free agency. As a result, Tennessee could target the draft’s top safety. Clinton-Dix offers good size and on-field awareness. He’d do a fine job replacing Griffin or Pollard on day one, and he’d offer more long-term upside.

12. New York Giants -- Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
If you just examine the ability of Seferian-Jenkins, you’ll find one of the draft’s best players. He's a bit of a Rob Gronkowski clone. There are some questions regarding his dedication to the game, but nonetheless, he’s the most physically gifted player at an ever-evolving position. He’ll generate buzz if he performs well at the NFL combine.

13. St. Louis Rams -- Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Even if Tavon Austin develops into a star receiver, the Rams must continue to add pieces around quarterback Sam Bradford. Though I’d stop short of comparing Ebron to New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham, the North Carolina prospect possesses the skill set to develop into a stud tight end.

14. Chicago Bears -- Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
After allowing over 150 rushing yards per game, which was the most in franchise history, the Bears seem likely to upgrade the middle of their defense. They could opt to pickup inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, but Jernigan would be an ideal fit alongside the returning Henry Melton. Jernigan is an animal. He does a great job of stopping the run by fighting through blockers. He’s also a good pass rusher.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers -- Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
A crisp route runner, Matthews is the SEC’s all-time leader in receptions. As an outside threat, he’d compliment Antonio Brown well, especially if they lineup on the same side of the ball. Throw in running back Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers have an exciting young nucleus of skill players to develop around quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

16. Baltimore Ravens -- Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
Starting outside linebacker Terrell Suggs turns 32 this summer, so the Ravens will begin (if they haven’t already) to think about the long-term situation at outside linebacker. Some view Mack as a top 10 pick. Others view him as a late first-round pick. I think he falls in the 10-20 range. He’s one of the most explosive pass rushers in this draft and he’ll holdup versus the run. He’ll likely standout as this year’s NFL combine.

17. Dallas Cowboys -- Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Because of his size (6-1 & 288 pounds), Donald isn’t your prototype stud defensive tackle of the modern day. Yet, that’s exactly what he is. In 2013, he recorded 59 tackles (28.5 for a loss) and 11 sacks. His strong showing during the senior bowl likely eased any concerns teams had regarding his size.

18. New York Jets -- Marqise Lee, WR, Southern CaliforniaMarqise Lee
Whether it’s wide receiver or tight end, the Jets should use their first pick on an offensive skill player. If the top two tight ends are off the board (Ebron & Seferian-Jenkins), then Lee makes the most sense. He didn’t play as well in 2013 as he did in 2012, but that was because of injuries. When he’s fully healthy, he’s a dynamic threat capable stretching the field deep. He‘s also terrific after the catch. For the Jets, he could be an impact player on day one.

19. Miami Dolphins -- Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Surrendering a league-high 58 sacks will get you in the market for a left tackle, especially with a 25-year-old franchise quarterback to protect. Lewan is several steps below Matthews and Robinson, but he’s dependable and tough. It’s not a flashy choice, but a player like Lewan is what Miami needs.

20. Arizona Cardinals -- Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
The return of last year’s first-round pick Jonathan Cooper will boost Arizona‘s offensive line, but adding another starter could put them over the top. Martin was outstanding at the senior bowl, where he played both guard and tackle. His versatility makes him enticing to teams picking in the backend of round one. At worst, the Cardinals could be looking at their future starting right tackle or guard. At best, they landed a polished left tackle.

21. Green Bay Packers -- C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Getting tougher upfront is a necessity if Green Bay is to compete with San Francisco and Seattle in the NFC. Mosley fits the bill. Many regard him as one of the elite prospects of this draft, but linebackers tend to fall on draft day, and the Alabama tag makes him a little overrated. Still, Mosley is an excellent two-down linebacker. He and long-time Green Bay linebacker A.J. Hawk would give the Packers a rugged look at the position.

22. Philadelphia Eagles -- Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford
The Eagles need pass rushers and nobody got after the quarterback more than Murphy did in 2013. His 15 sacks led college football. He’ll bring versatility to Philadelphia’s defense. He can rush the passer standing up or put his hand in the dirt. He also plays the game with incredible intensity, which is what the Eagles are going for on the defensive side of the ball.

23. Kansas City Chiefs -- Ra'Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota
Hageman has excellent size (6-6 & 318 pounds) and is versatile enough to play 3-4 defensive end or 4-3 defensive tackle. His inconsistencies suggest that he’s not yet ready to make an immediate impact, but Kansas City head coach Andy Reid values defensive and offensive lineman in the first round. Reid has drafted a defensive or offensive lineman in the first round in eight out his last nine attempts.

24. Cincinnati Bengals -- Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Injecting youth into their secondary is something Cincinnati may consider. Next season, Adam Jones turns 31 and Leon Hall turns 30. In addition, because of injuries, they relied on 35-year-old Terence Newman this season. Drafting Gilbert in round one should intrigue them. He’s among the draft’s biggest play-making corners with seven interceptions in 2013. However, he’s still developing, but the Bengals have enough veteran presence at the position to bring him along slowly.

25. San Diego Chargers -- Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
Because of his size (6-4 & 340 pounds), Richardson is drawing comparisons to Hall of Fame offensive guard Larry Allen. Like Allen, Richardson is insanely powerful, but he’s also nimble on his feet. Drafting Richardson and playing him next to right tackle D.J. Fluker would go along way to solidifying San Diego’s offensive front. 

26. Cleveland Browns -- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
With a decent defense already in place, many expect the Brown to focus primarily on upgrading their offense. It’s probable they’ll land a quarterback with their first pick, but they also need to upgrade the skill positions around their future signal caller. Benjamin’s a big target (6-4 & 232 pounds) with outstanding hands. He’s still developing, but he made significant progress in 2013, especially as a route runner. Pairing him with Josh Gordon could give Cleveland a receiving tandem comparable to Chicago’s duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.  

27. New Orleans Saints -- Kony Ealy, DE/LB, Missouri
The Saints made major strides on defense in 2013, but they must continue to add to an aggressive scheme. They need a rusher capable of simply beating the guy across from him. Ealy makes sense, especially if he lasts this long. He has an outstanding pass-rushing repertoire. He can rush inside or accelerate around the edge. He’d have the potential add another layer to Rob Ryan's defense.

28. Carolina Panthers -- Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
With a Super Bowl caliber defense in place, Carolina will turn their attention to upgrading their offense this off-season. Primarily, they need a possession wide receiver -- which Evans is -- to compliment long-time receiver Steve Smith. Evans lacks the speed to consistently separate from NFL defensive backs, but he does a great job of using his big body (6-5 & 225 pounds) to post up defensive backs.

29. San Francisco 49ers -- Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
A productive 2013 season from Anquan Boldin doesn’t take San Francisco out of the market for a receiver. Specifically, they need somebody versatile enough to play inside or outside, while athletic enough to stretch the field. That sounds like Beckham, who also has terrific acceleration and excellent hands. His presence in San Francisco’s offense would make them even more difficult to defend than they already are.

30. New England Patriots -- Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Aside from wide receiver, the Patriots must improve the middle of their defense. Last year, they were last in the AFC defending the run and No. 30 overall. Injuries played a role, but defensive tackle Vince Wilfork turns 33 this November, so finding his replacement is a priority. At 6-2 and 342 pounds, Nix III has the typical nose tackle body, so he should have no problem stuffing the run and absorbing double teams.

31. Denver Broncos -- Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S, Florida State
You won’t find a definitive answer regarding Joyner’s draft stock. Simply put, it‘s all over the place. Because of his size (5-8 & 194 pounds), some teams will take Joyner off their draft board entirely. At the same time, though, he is this draft’s most instinctive player. He’s versatile enough to cover the slot, but he’s at his best when he relies on his instincts to roam the defensive backfield. The Broncos don’t seem to shy away from smaller defensive backs, so Joyner could be an ideal fit at the backend of round one.

32. Seattle Seahawks -- Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The Seahawks need pass catchers. Specifically, they need somebody who can move the chains, as a healthy Percy Harvin will settle in as their big-play threat. Amaro did a great job of moving the sticks at Texas Tech. In fact, he was the most productive tight end in college football last season. You could argue he’s not an elite athlete, but he’s a steady player across the board, and could help take Seattle’s passing game to the next level.

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