We have been releasing our way too early 2014 NFL Draft rankings and they have been a hotbed of arguments, speculation, and insults. The interest in the rankings has readers clamoring for a mock draft. I’m a sucker for looking into the future when the present has presented itself. Keep in mind we are not basing this off our thoughts on where 2013 prospects land in the draft but it’s impossible to take a guess. This mock is based solely on current value of 2014 prospects and current rosters of teams.
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1. Oakland Raiders – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
It goes without saying that Matt Flynn or Terrelle Pryor won’t stop the Raiders from drafting a quarterback first overall. It’s tough to pass on a talent like Jadeveon Clowney but the Raiders have to find a way to stop the bleeding at the position that has plagued them since Rich Gannon left town.
2. New York Jets – Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
The Jets find a versatile defender that is the top overall player in the draft. As great as Teddy Bridgewater is, Clowney is a rare specimen that won’t make it out of the top two picks. The only reason not to take Clowney first overall is a major QB need which Oakland has. You don’t worry about fit in the defense with Jadeveon Clowney, you just take him and walk away smiling.
3. San Diego Chargers – Cyrus Kouandijo, OT, Alabama
The Cardinals are likely to strike out on a left tackle sitting at No. 11. It looking like the top three 2013 tackles could be off the board in the first seven picks leaving a giant hole for the Chargers. Phillip Rivers could be in trouble if the Chargers finish with the 3rd overall pick but for our purposes we’ll assume they will choose to build around him.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Because we’re not factoring in our mock draft picks we’ll go with a QB to Jacksonville. It has been my strong feeling that the Jags may roll the dice on the Geno Smith with the 2nd overall pick. For now, we’ll look at a QB because it is there biggest need. Manziel doesn’t possess great size but makes up for it with athleticism, accuracy, and gritty play. The Heisman winner looks to repeat in 2013 and end his collegiate days with two years of eligibility left.
5. Tennessee Titans – Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Jake Locker could be on the hot seat if the Titans fail to improve in 2013. If the Titans chose to give Locker another chance they may look to surround him with another weapon. Kenny Britt isn’t the most reliable receiver off-the-field, leaving Kendall Wright as the only decent receiver on the roster. Marqise Lee is a game changer that could be the rare receiver worthy of a top five selection.
6. Buffalo Bills – Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
I received some emails questioning my sanity for rating Devin Gardner higher than Johnny Manziel in my first 2014 rankings release. I spent some time this spring at Michigan and believe he’s ready for a breakout season. Gardner has all the tools but only a year and a half of starting experience at QB. Michigan isn’t going to have great weapons this season but I expect Gardner to emerge into this vicinity with strong play.
7. Arizona Cardinals – Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Cards picked up Carson Palmer which could be viewed as a stopgap but I happen to like the move because of the system fit. Carson is on the downside making a QB an option at this pick but we’ll go with a much needed OT at this spot. Matthews chose to stay at A&M but had the goods to come out early. Another season – and one spent at LT – will do good for Matthews and this could be too low for the stud LT.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Tajh Boyd’s growth last year had some believing he could push Geno Smith had he entered the 2013 NFL Draft. He chose to return for his senior season and could emerge as a sure-fire top 10 pick. Josh Freeman will be on the outs if the Bucs finish with the 8th pick as they move on with a new QB.
9. Cleveland Browns – David Fales, QB, San Jose St.
What a difference a year makes. The 2013 NFL Draft may see two quarterbacks go in the top ten…and that’s up for debate. We have five going in the top nine. Granted Devin Gardner is major speculation on my part but the others are looking like solid bets. Another season of sub-.500 football should do in Brandon Weeden and Fales is a guy to familiarize yourself with if you don’t already know of him.
10. Kansas City Chiefs – Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Dwayne Bowe is really the only real weapon among this WR crew. Jon Baldwin and Donnie Avery are average receivers in the league and the Chiefs would be wise to grab a guy that has top five potential. Watkins was injured for a good portion of 2012 but should rebound nicely with Tajh Boyd back.
11. Philadelphia Eagles – Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
The Eagles are going to need help on the corner despite signing Cary Williams and Brad Fletcher. Williams is very average and Fletcher hasn’t shown the ability to stay healthy. Roby has the size and speed to be considered in the top 10. He was a candidate to make the jump this year and could have challenged to be the second corner off the board.
12. Carolina Panthers – Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
The Panthers have long needed a difference maker in the middle of their defense. They get one here with Louis Nix. Nix was the best ND defender this season which included Manti Te’o. Another season of dominating play in the middle should move him into this range.
13. Dallas Cowboys – Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Doug Free needs to be replaced in the worst of ways. Lewan is a physical guy that works hard at his craft. He should step in from day one to take over the right side of this porous line.
14. Minnesota Vikings – C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
The Vikings have nothing in the middle of their defense. Had C.J. Mosley entered the 2013 NFL Draft he would have been the first ILB taken. The same is true for 2014 as he will give the Vikings the difference maker next to Chad Greenway that they have sorely been missing.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
The Steelers will most likely look to replace James Harrison early in the 2013 NFL Draft but if they believe that Jason Worilds can fill that hole they may opt to wait it out there with other needs. Worilds strikes me as a serviceable player but not spectacular. Anthony Barr gives the Steelers a spectacular edge rusher that is just scratching the surface of his potential.
16. St. Louis Rams – Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
The Rams have brought in a couple of OLB’s in free agency but no contracts have been signed as of this point. It’s a major need area that should be addressed fairly early in the draft if they can’t sign a free agent. Kyle Van Noy emerged onto the national scene in 2012 with his knack for making big plays. If he continues where he left off in 2012, this may be a pipe dream to land him at No. 16.