2014 NFL Mock Draft: John Manuel
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1. Houston Texans: DE Jadveon Clowney, South Carolina
-This pick could go one of three ways: A top defensive player, a quarterback, or a trade back. With no trades in this scenario, it’s down to a quarterback versus a top defensive player. If the Texans believe that one of the top quarterbacks will become an elite talent that is the direction they should go, but if they don’t feel confident in that regard, they have to take the best player on the board. Clowney is that best player on the board, and he has the athleticism to play a rush linebacker in the Texans scheme and make an instant impact in their system.
2. St. Louis Rams (From Washington Redskins): OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
-This is a prime trading spot, but for the purposes of this pick the Rams will have to choose between an Offensive tackle, a wide receiver or possibly one of the top defensive players. I think Matthews is the safest selection probably in this entire draft and Jeff Fisher is quite familiar with the Matthews family. With Jake Long’s status up in the air and Roger Saffold capable of playing inside, this pick makes a lot of sense.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
-The Jaguars would probably take Jadveon Clowney if he was on the board, but landing the top quarterback in this draft class isn’t a bad fall back option. Bortles is a local kid, and would be a great option as the new face of the franchise. A couple of the top defensive players or Greg Robinson could be in consideration, but Jacksonville needs a quarterback and I don’t see them passing on Bortles.
4. Cleveland Browns: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
-The Browns will need to make the decision between WR Sammy Watkins and a quarterback with this pick. While they could grab Watkins here and hope for a quarterback with their 2nd first round pick, I think the possibilities with Manziel are too great to pass up. The Browns need to shake things up, and Manziel would do just that.
5. Oakland Raiders: OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
-The Raiders can go in just about any direction with this pick and they will likely consider Watkins, Mack, Barr and Donald quite a bit. Oakland also figures to be interested in a quarterback, so Teddy Bridgewater could be in play here. In the end Greg Robinson is an elite talent at an extremely important position. The Raiders signed Donald Penn to a cheap deal, and while they have other tackle options, Robinson is just too good to pass up.
6. Atlanta Falcons: OLB Khalil Mack, Buffalo
-The Falcons need to boost their defense with this selection and will likely look at the top defensive guys left on the board. Mack could play a role similar to Von Miller in Denver, where he’s a stand-up linebacker on early downs and then puts his hand on the ground in passing situations.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Sammy Watkins
-The Buccaneers wide receiver depth chart is pretty bare beyond Vincent Jackson, so the idea of adding the top receiver in the draft would be quite appealing to them. Watkins and Jackson would give Tampa a great 1-2 combo, and should help jump start the offense.
8. Minnesota Vikings: DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
-The Vikings want a quarterback, but they probably won’t reach for one at this spot. Instead Minnesota lands Aaron Donald, one of the premier players in this draft class. He’ll get overlooked by some teams due to his lack of size, but his talent and production is undeniable. New Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had Geno Atkins in Cincy, and Donald could play a similar role here. The one issue is that Minnesota just drafted Sharrif Floyd last year and he plays basically the same position as Donald. I think Zimmer is a smart enough defensive mind to figure out how to make it work and won’t let a talent like Donald slip away.
9. Buffalo Bills: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
-The Bills lost one of the top safeties in the league in Jarius Byrd to free agency, so finding a top replacement makes a lot of sense with this pick.
10. Detroit Lions: WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
-The Lions could go a couple different directions with this selection, and there is a good chance they look for a defensive player with this pick. One guy that could give them pause is WR Mike Evans. The chance to add Mike Evans to Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate could be too tempting to pass up. If teams try to double team Johnson, having two very good additional options would give quarterback Matt Stafford the weapons to pick apart opposing defenses.
11. Tennessee Titans: OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
-The Titans are moving to a 3-4 defense and need to find a rush linebacker, if they want to be successful. Anthony Barr has the potential to become that impact pass rusher, and would be a great fit for the Titans at this pick. Barr is a little raw still overall, but he should still generate a good bit of pressure as a rookie.
12. New York Giants: TE Eric Ebron, UNC
-The Giants could go a couple different directions, but it could be tough for them to pass up a pass catching TE like Ebron. New York has gotten a good bit of production on the cheap from the Tight End position of late, but right now they are extremely thin at the position. Ebron could be an impact guy for the Giants and give Eli Manning a key weapon to threaten defenses with.
13. St. Louis Rams: S Calvin Pryor, Lousiville
-This may be a little high for Pryor, but the Rams have a real need here and could look to add the hard hitting Pryor with this selection. He should be an immediate starter in St. Louis and would give them a key piece in the secondary. Pryor has great instincts and is always round the football. With the type of pass rush the Rams generate, he would be an excellent fit in St. Louis.
14. Chicago Bears: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
-With the top two safeties off the board this pick will come down to either a defensive tackle or a corner. It could really go either way, but with Donald off the board and Gilbert still available, I believe the Bears would favoring adding a potential shutdown corner.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
-The Steelers could look to use this pick to get younger on defense, but with a potential franchise LT available in Taylor Lewan, that should be the Steelers pick. Pittsburgh has had too many issues at that spot in recent years and if they can lock that position down, they have to do so.
16. Dallas Cowboys: DE Dee Ford, Auburn
-The Cowboys need defensive help and in particular they need guys along the defensive line. Ford has the potential to be an impact pass rusher and could help fill the shoes of DeMarcus Ware.