Bill Belichick will look to improve the Patriots roster in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft. (USA TODAY Images)
The second edition of my 2014 NFL mock draft.
The NFL draft is about a month away and there have been a lot of changes from my previous mock. Here’s how I expect the first round to play out. —
1.Â Houston TexansÂ â€“Â Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Texans are a franchise quarterback away from being an AFC contender, but there isn’t a quarterback in this year’s class that is worth a no. 1 overall selection. Houston goes with the best player in the draft and hope to grab a QB in round two.
2. St. Louis RamsÂ â€“Â Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
In my first mock, I had the Rams trading with the Falcons. I still see St. Louis training down, but I’ve decided not to mock trades in this edition.
The Rams have Jake Long, who is recovering from an ACL injury suffered last season,Â Â but the Auburn tackle has incredible upside and would be a great addition for the team. They’ve been committed to QB Sam Bradford, so it’s a must they do everything in their power to protect him.
3. Jacksonville JaguarsÂ â€“ Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Jaguars could go in several different directions with this selection. Clowney makes sense if heâ€™s available, as they desperately need help rushing the passer, but Jacksonville needs a face of their franchise. Bridgewater gives them a legitimateÂ QB and would be their best option here.
4. Cleveland BrownsÂ â€“Â Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
I have questions about Bortles, and heâ€™s not my top rated prospect, but this is an interesting fit. Borltes is by no means a sure-thing, but he has high upside. His 6’5, 232 frame throwing the ball to Josh Gordon and Cameron Jordan has to be tantalizing for a team that has been searching for a legitimate signal-caller. The question for Cleveland, however, is could they find a QB they like with picks at no. 26 or no. 35 for better value?
5. Oakland RaidersÂ â€“Â Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Watkins is a dynamic, play-making receiver that can boost an anemic offense. The biggest question for Oakland â€” who will throw him the ball? Is Matt Schuab the plan for their “win now” mentality? The Raiders could potentially move up for one of the top QB prospects, but Watkins would be a nice consolation prize as they look to build on the offensive side of the ball.
6. Atlanta Falcons â€“Â Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The Falcons could very well trade up for Clowney, but grabbing Mack at this spot would be a nice selection. Atlanta needs aÂ defensive playmaker and the Buffalo product fits the mold.Â A versatile, aggressive player that could be an impact starter from day one. Getting after the quarterback is key in todayâ€™s NFL and the Falcons would love to add Mack for 2014.
7. Tampa Bay BuccaneersÂ â€“ Â Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
I could easily see new head coach Lovie Smith targeting a prospect to add to the front seven of his defense. But if Clowney and Mack are gone, which is expected, pairing Evans with Vincent Jackson would give the Buccaneers a receiving core that could torture opposing secondaries.
8. Minnesota VikingsÂ â€“Â Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Fire and ice, that’s what I see with Manziel pairing with new head coach Mike Zimmer. After Manziel’s highly publicized pro day, Zimmer called it a “sideshow”, but I still this as a potential fit. Manziel could develop in the system, handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson and has targets down field with Kyle Rudolph as well as Cordarrelle Patterson. The Vikings could have a young, explosive offense with Manziel leading the way.
9. Buffalo BillsÂ â€“Â Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Back-to-back-to-back Aggies. Even with Cordy Glenn already on the line, if Matthews falls to this spot it would be tough to pass on him. I could see the Bills adding a defensive prospect to their defense, but like the Rams, theyâ€™ve committed to a QB and need to protect him. A strong line could really benefit E.J. Manuel as he continues to develop going into his second season.
10. Detroit LionsÂ â€“Â Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
After the signing of wide receiver Golden Tate in free agency, I don’t see Detroit going offense here. The Lions need help on defense, specifically in their secondary. Gilbert brings a tremendous skill-set and high upside to a team with a strong front seven in place. Heâ€™s not a perfect prospect, but he is the best cornerback in this class.
11. Tennessee TitansÂ â€“Â Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Titans need an edge rusher, so Anthony Barr is the selection here. New defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, will be switching the defense to a 3-4 and could use a standup weapon like Barr. Defensive end Kamerion Wimbley just re-worked his contract and pairing him with the UCLA prospect could give them some explosive outside linebackers for Horton’s new scheme.
12. New York GiantsÂ â€“ Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Ebron is far and away the best tight end in this class. The way tight ends have been used the past few years, every team in the NFL wants the next Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski on the roster. I’m not sure Ebron is as good, but he can start from week one and do a number for the Giants offense.
13. St Louis RamsÂ â€“ Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
This pick is gaining traction around the league. Clinton-Dix is a versatile, playmaking safety that can help stabilize the Rams secondary from day one. Good fit, good value, done deal.
14. Chicago BearsÂ â€“ Aaron Donald, DL, Pittsburgh
Donald would fill a big need for the Bears. Chicago could go in a number of different directions, but I expect them to target interior defensive line early on. They added Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen to the edge, but they could use a young, playmaking defensive tackle. Donald fits the mold and would be a nice addition for the Bears.
15. Pittsburgh SteelersÂ â€“ Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Watching the Steelers this past year, it was clear the defense needed some new blood. Pittsburgh got old very quickly, so which direction do they go at no. 15? Taking Dennard seems like the most logical choice at this spot. He would fit nicely in Dick LeBeau’s defense.
16. Dallas CowboysÂ â€“ Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Missouri
Moving on from DeMarcus Ware will be tough for a Dallas defense that really struggled last year. Ealy can come in and help replace some of the lost production. Whether it’s Ealy or not, it seems like a lock it will a front seven choice for the Cowboys here.
17.Â Baltimore RavensÂ - C.J Mosley, LB, Alabama
The Ravens could go offensive line here, but Mosley would be a welcomed addition to a linebacking core in need of more youth. His high football IQ, versatility and awareness stand out on tape. The Alabama linebacker could be a nice fit for the Ravens as they continue to rebuild their defense.
18. New York JetsÂ â€“ Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Despite the addition of Eric Decker, the Jets could use a playmaker like Beckham jr. The LSU wideout has great ability and strong hands that could make New York’s offense much more dangerous than in years past. He has been really impressive during the pre-draft process.
19. Miami DolphinsÂ â€“ Zach Martin, OL, Notre Dame
The Dolphins have a need on the offensive line and have done some reshuffling along the front. Keeping QB Ryan Tannehill upright will be key in 2014 and the versatile Martin can step into a number of spots to contribute right away.
20. Arizona CardinalsÂ â€“ Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Arizona could very well go defensive line or safety with this pick, but Lewan is too much value to pass right here. They added Jared Veldheer to play left tackle, Lewan could step in and play right. He comes with some off-field issues, causing him to fall a bit, but this would significantly help the Cardinals offensive line.
21. Green Bay PackersÂ â€“ Calvin Pryor, S, Lousivile
The Packers have several needs, but safety clearly is near — if not at — the top. Pryor is an aggressive, tone-setting safety that could help solidify the backend of the Green Bay defense. The Packers have wanted to add toughness as they’ve rebuilt their defense the past two years, Pryor would be a solid addition.
22. Philadelphia EaglesÂ â€“ Marquise Lee, WR, USC
Desean Jackson out, Lee in. The Eagles released Jackson last week and it was clear they wanted to go in another direction. They re-signed wide receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin, but adding another young, talented wideout like Lee could help replace the void the Jackson release created.
23. Kansas City ChiefsÂ â€“ Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
When Kansas City was bounced from the playoffs last year, it seemed they lacked weapons in the passing game. Besides Dwayne Bowe, who disappears for stretches at a time anyways, the team doesn’t really have a no. 2 option. Cooks is a high character, playmaking receiver that has been rising throughout the pre-draft process. He could be what the Chiefs are missing.
24. Cincinnati BengalsÂ â€“ Timmy Jernigan, DL, Florida State
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins is recovering from a torn ACL and the team lost defense end Michael Johnson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cincinnati could use some help up front, Jernigan is a bit raw, but would fit their scheme very well. He and Atkins could really give opposing lines fits. Secondary help is also an option here.
25. San Diego ChargersÂ â€“ Louis Nix III, DL, Notre Dame
Nix is a weird selection because he really could go within ten picks of this spot and it would not be a surprise. Chargers lost defensive linemanÂ Cam Thomas to the Steelers and can really use a presence on their defensive line. Nix is a tough, versatile player that can start from day one. Defensive lineman isn’t a “sexy pick”, but it could really go a long way for San Diego.
26. Cleveland Browns (via Colts)Â â€“ Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
When you have Joe Haden in your secondary, he won’t be targeted a whole lot, but the other cornerback will. The Browns could go wide receiver here, but Verrett is a terrific man-coverage corner that can fit in to Cleveland’s attacking defense.
27. New Orleans SaintsÂ â€“ Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
The Saints are somewhat of a wildcard, as they could go in several directions. It doesn’t hurt to give defensive coordinator Rob Ryan another pass rusher to use in his defense, though. From day one, Ford can come in on passing downs and get to the quarterback. His Senior Bowl performance and pre-draft process has him rising.
28. Carolina PanthersÂ â€“ Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
The Panthers just signed veteran wide receiver Jason Avant, who’s probably their best receiver at this point. That pretty much tells you how badly Carolina needs to get QB Cam Newton some weapons this May. Some forget, however, that left tackle Jordan Gross just retired and they need a replacement for him as well. I expect it to be one of those two positions.
29. New England PatriotsÂ â€“ Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
There’s one thing that bothers me when talking about the Patriots draft, they won’t do (fill in the blank) or won’t draft a certain position. We’ve seen Bill Belichick do the unexpected time and time again, so nothing will really surprise me here.
There’s a good chance they trade down here, adding selections in the second-fourth rounds, but linebacker makes a lot of sense here.
Shazier is an athletic player that can be moved around in the Patriots front seven. They can send him on the blitz, drop him in coverage or whatever the team asks of him. He’s an athletic, run-and-chase linebacker that can rotate in and give New England’s defense more speed up front.
With Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins set to start, Shazier could fill the roleÂ Collins did last year and potentially frees up he or someone else to play on the line of scrimmage. He’s not a finished product, but he would be a nice selection for the Pats at no. 29.
30. San Francisco 49ersÂ â€“ Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
If I were mocking trades, I would say it’s very possible San Francisco trades up for a wide receiver like Odell Beckham jr or Brandin Cooks, as they do have a lot of picks in this draft. If they don’t go receiver, look for the 49ers to target cornerback here. They lost cornerbacks Tarrell Brown and Carlos Rodgers to the Oakland Raiders in free agency, so adding a player or two in the draft won’t be surprising.
31. Denver BroncosÂ â€“Â Xavier Su’a-Filo, OL, UCLA
The Broncos lost Zane Beadles in free agency and have to do some reshuffling on the interior of the offensive line. Protecting Peyton Manning is priority one for Denver, so adding the versatile Su’a-Filo would be a nice addition at this spot in the draft.
32. Seattle SeahawksÂ â€“ RaShede Hageman, DL, Minnesota
The Seahawks don’t have a whole lot of needs, so this is a bit of a luxury pick for them. They could go receiver, but depth along the trenches is important in the NFL. After losing Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, Hageman could help rotate into Seattle’s defense. He has an incredible amount of upside.
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