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Row12.com - A Community of Sports Writers and Fans!                                               ***Attention Writers***
 
2014 NFL Mock Draft 3.0
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. They could also 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 -- Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Bypassing a quarterback with the No. 4 selection and choosing the best player available may entice the Browns, especially if Bridgewater and Manziel are off the board. Watkins followed up an historic Orange Bowl performance (16 catches, 227 yards, and 2 touchdowns) with a sensational combine workout. Pairing the dynamic athlete with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron could give Cleveland one of the league’s top offensive arsenals. Now if only they could find a quarterback.

5. Oakland Raiders -- Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
When you have a roster full of holes, the best drafting philosophy is to take the best player available. Jared Veldheer is a free agent and he has expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of urgency in contract talks with the Raiders. Even if general manager Reggie McKenzie re-signs Veldheer, he could still have a difficult time passing on Robinson, who has the quality game tape to go with his freakish measurables. 

6. Atlanta Falcons -- Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
I have a hunch the Falcons will aggressively attempt to jump the Jaguars in order to draft Clowney. The Rams are the logical trading partner, as they’re looking to move down, and Matthews could easily be their fallback option. Football is in his blood. In fact, his father Bruce Matthews actually played for current St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher when he coached in Houston and Tennessee. Whether it’s with Atlanta or St. Louis, Matthews has the ability to step in and contribute as an immediate starter.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers --Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
By hiring Lovie Smith, Tampa should take an underachieving defense and vastly improve it. He’s that good of a coach. As a result, most of Tampa Bay’s off-season focus will be on improving their offense. Drafting Bortles to replace Mike Glennon is tempting, but Glennon wasn’t bad as a rookie, and the Buccaneers are desperate for a tight end.

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 -- Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Bills have a good left tackle in Cordy Glenn, but they could upgrade the right side. Lewan entered the combine as the clear-cut No. 3 offensive tackle in this draft, but he displayed the kind of athleticism and movement skills you see from top 10 tackles. He still remains this draft’s No. 3 tackle, but the gap between him, Matthews, and Robinson may not be as wide as many (like myself) thought.Justin Gilbert

10. Detroit Lions -- Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Drafting Gilbert in round one should intrigue Detroit, who needs to upgrade their secondary so it can combat the passing games of Chicago and Green Bay. Frankly, I prefer Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard to Gilbert, but the latter is a better athlete with greater upside.

11. Tennessee Titans -- Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Because they’re transitioning to more of a hybrid defense, Tennessee will need to re-shape their front seven. Mack didn’t have the mind-numbing combine performance many predicted, but he did solidify his status in the top half of the first round. Some continue to view him as a top 10 prospect. The Titans would be happy if either he or UCLA’s Anthony Barr fell to them with this pick.

12. N.Y. Giants -- Anthony Barr, DE/LB, UCLA
Building around Eli Manning remains New York’s biggest need, so drafting a receiver or tight end makes sense. However, general manager Jerry Reese has a history of selecting the best player available, which Barr would be with the 12th overall pick. I'd prefer to see Barr land with a 3-4 defense, but the Giants could play him at linebacker in their base-package, and defensive end in their sub-package. Denver’s Von Miller plays the same role in the Broncos' defense.

13. St. Louis Rams -- Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Even if Tavon Austin develops into a star receiver, the Rams must continue to add pieces around quarterback Sam Bradford. Evans does a great job of using his big body (6-4 and 231 pounds) to post up defensive backs. He does most of his work primarily outside, so it’d be fun to watch him and Austin -- who plays the slot -- work off each other.

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 -- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
As an outside threat, Benjamin would compliment Antonio Brown well, especially if they lineup on the same side of the ball. The Florida State receiver is a big target (6-4 and 232 pounds) with outstanding hands. He’s still developing, but he made significant progress in 2013, especially as a route runner

16. Dallas Cowboys -- Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Because of his size (6-1 and 285 pounds), Donald isn’t your prototype stud defensive tackle. 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 and combine likely eased any concerns teams had regarding his size.

17. Baltimore Ravens -- C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Replacing Ray Lewis was never going to be easy, but Daryl Smith did a good job last season. Smith is a free agent, though, and rookie Arthur Brown wasn’t impressive. Enter Mosley, who some feel is one of this draft‘s elite prospects. However, linebackers tend to fall on drafty day, and the Alabama tag makes him a little overrated. Still, Mosley could develop into a very good player for Baltimore, especially if the put quality players in front of him. 

18. New York Jets -- Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California
Whether it’s wide receiver or tight end, the Jets should use their first pick on an offensive skill player. Lee 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 -- Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
After surrendering a league-high 58 sacks, there’s no question Miami will target outside free agents, but the draft also offers opportunities. Martin was outstanding at the Senior Bowl, where he played both guard and tackle. His versatility will make him enticing to teams picking in the latter half of round one. At worst, the Dolphins could be looking at their future starting right tackle or guard. At best, they landed a polished left tackle.

20. Arizona Cardinals -- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Dennard thrives is man-coverage and uses his physicality to disrupt receivers downfield. The Cardinals already have Peterson -- who is developing into one of the best defensive players in football -- and Tyrann Mathieu, but they need another cornerback to solidify their secondary.

21. Green Bay Packers -- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Entering training camp with M.D. Jennings or Sean Richardson starting opposite of Morgan Burnett at safety would be unwise for Green Bay. The Packers need to target a safety via free agency or the draft. Clinton-Dix has good size and is physical enough to play in the box, but he’s also a natural enough athlete to thrive on the backend.

22. Philadelphia Eagles -- Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
No team gave up more passing yards in 2013 than Philadelphia did. They’ll look to correct this weakness via the draft or free agency. The Eagles are looking to build an intense defense with athletes flying all over the field. Pryor, who is the physical alternative to Clinton-Dix, fits that style. His nose for the football compares to Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu.

23. Kansas City Chiefs -- Ra'Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota
Hageman has excellent size (6-6 and 310 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 round one. Reid has drafted a defensive or offensive lineman in the first round in eight out his last nine attempts.

24. Cincinnati Bengals -- Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
It seems inevitable that Michael Johnson will depart via free agency, so Cincinnati could be in the market for another pass rusher. They did draft Margus Hunt in the second round last year, but he’s not a legit pass rusher. Ealy has an outstanding pass-rushing repertoire. He can rush inside or accelerate around the edge. He’d have the potential add another layer to Cincinnati’s defense. 

25. San Diego Chargers -- Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
A strong combine performance could elevate Roby back into the first round, after he disappointed in 2013. Roby ran a sub 4.40 in the 40-yard dash and scouts like his upside to develop into a quality NFL starter. I’d prefer to see TCU cornerback Jason Verrett in this spot, but Verrett’s size (5-9 and 189 pounds) could scare the Chargers in another direction.

26. Cleveland Browns -- Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
If the Browns opt to pass on a quarterback with their first pick, you can expect them to target one with their second pick. Carr is an interesting prospect. He was very productive for Fresno State in 2013 and his quick release is similar to Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino. That doesn’t mean he‘s the next Marino, though, as Carr sometimes forces the ball into coverage. He also needs to work on his accuracy. Nevertheless, he’s an appealing quarterback to any team picking in the latter half of round one.

27. New Orleans Saints -- Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
The Saints made major strides on defense in 2013, but they must continue to add aggressive players to that side of the ball. Van Noy’s junior season was better than his senior year, but he’s a capable rusher, and good tackler. BYU moved him around their defense a lot, so defensive coordinator Rob Ryan could devise creative schemes to unleash him on foes.

28. Carolina Panthers -- Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
With a Super Bowl caliber defense in place, Carolina will turn their attention to upgrading their offense this off-season. Primarily, they need a wide receiver to compliment long-time starter Steve Smith. Beckham is versatile enough to play inside or outside, while athletic enough to stretch the field. He does a great job of going up and battling for the football.

29. San Francisco 49ers -- Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
The 49ers intend to re-sign Anquan Boldin, but they still need another young receiver to develop. A crisp route runner, Matthews is the SEC’s all-time leader in receptions. He doesn’t wow you with his speed, but he might be the most polished receiver available in this draft.

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 -- Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Adding a cornerback is definitely in the cards for Denver, as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie figures to draw heavy interest as a free agent. Plus, it’s likely the Broncos will part ways with veteran Champ Bailey. Verrett displays good recovery speed, ball skills, and instincts. His size is an issue, but the Broncos do have smaller cornerbacks on their roster, so they may overlook it. While Verrett can play the outside, I think he’d excel as a slot corner.

32. Seattle Seahawks -- David Yankey, OG, Stanford
Seattle’s in the market for a right tackle and guard. The latter is probably a more realistic scenario at pick No. 32. Yankey could be the guy. He played in a power scheme at Stanford, so he fits the mentality of Seattle’s run-first offense. There’s a vicious streak to him, evident with the way he knocks around defenders.

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