When it comes to the 2014 draft, it seems like every expert has a different take on how it should unfold. This draft is so rich with talent that nobody can say with great certainty who is going to be the first pick. While we speculate on what teams need at the top of the draft board, many General Managers are simply trying to make sure that they don’t leave the next Pro Bowl player available for another team to take.
In a perfect world, teams would simply draft for their needs. This, however, is not the way things will go. The pressure is on the teams with the first 10 picks to make sure they select the top talent that is available, especially with the high draft picks. That is what makes mock drafts far from predictable and also what makes predicting the top players that will be selected all the more fun.
If needs were paramount over the talent that is available, the draft might unfold in a different way. The following selections will probably not proceed in this manner, but these are the moves that could be made if General Managers were just looking out for their own teams.
10. Detroit Lions – Justin Gilbert CB, Oklahoma State
The Lions need some help in the secondary, and it would be hard to pass up Justin Gilbert at this particular spot. Sure they have a huge interest in Texas A&M’s big receiver, Mike Evans, but Gilbert fills a need in a secondary that had trouble keeping offenses from making big plays. Gilbert’s blazing speed at the Combine (4.35 second 40-yard dash) would make him a logical pick at this spot. The Lions are one of the few teams near the top of the draft board that don’t need a quarterback, so he would stand a good chance of falling to this particular spot.
9. Buffalo Bills – Jake Matthews OT, Texas A&M
The Bills are set on the left side of their offensive line with the enormous Cordy Glenn, but could use another tackle on the right side of their line. Jake Matthews started all 13 games on the right side in 2012 and was switched to the left side to replace Luke Joekel in 2013. He is a great technical blocker who is more athletic than most people might think. This would be a perfect fit for Buffalo as well as one of the best players available at this particular spot. The Bills could make a statement this coming season with the protection for EJ Manual firmly in place.
8. Minnesota Vikings – Anthony Barr LB/DE, UCLA
The Vikings might have resigned Matt Cassel, but they could still use a quarterback at some point in this draft. The problem with this scenario is that the top three quarterbacks would be taken by this point in the draft. They still have to replace Jared Allen’s motor, as well as his 10.5 sacks. Anthony Barr can play linebacker or defensive end and offers the Vikings a great athlete who can get to the quarterback now and might still be improving his game. If the Raiders, Browns and Texans all address their quarterback needs, the Vikings would be hard pressed to find a better athlete in this draft who can contribute right away and fill a glaring need.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Greg Robinson OT, Auburn
The Buccaneers might improve their offense significantly if they can get back to running the football again. Robinson is big, athletic, powerful and would be an upgrade on just about any roster in the league. He is probably the best run blocking tackle in the 2014 draft and has the athleticism to cut off speed rushers as well as get to the next level in the running game. He could certainly help the Buccaneers gain more yards on the ground, while providing above average pass blocking skills to an offensively challenged Buccaneers team.
6. Atlanta Falcons – TRADE to St. Louis Rams – Sammy Watkins WR, Clemson
The Rams can get their number one receiver with the sixth selection of the draft. Sammy Watkins has good size, speed and hands to be the perfect complement to Tavon Austin operating in the slot. Another dynamic target to help Sam Bradford and the Rams compete with the 49ers, Cardinals and Seahawks in the rugged NFC West. If they are looking for more size, Mike Evans would be another smart play, but Watkins has the skills and physical tools that would be hard for the Rams to pass up at this spot.
5. Oakland Raiders – Johnny Manziel QB, Texas A&M
The Raiders need a quarterback and would electrify their fan base with the selection of Johnny Manziel. Sure Johnny is a stretch at the fifth selection of the draft, but the Raiders franchise has been in shambles for quite some time and Johnny Manziel is the one guy who could inject some life into a franchise where underachieving has been par for the course. His swagger is reminiscent of the Raiders of the past, his fearless play is a perfect fit as well and he even comes with a reputation for having some fun off the field that has never been frowned upon in Oakland. Manziel would be a perfect Raider who can also inspire the other talented Raider players to play with heart.
4. Cleveland Browns – TRADE to Houston Texans – Teddy Bridgewater QB, Louisville
The Browns have plenty of picks in the 2014 draft, so trading up to snatch Blake Bortles would be the best scenario for them. They need a quarterback and have an offense that can use Bortle’s strong arm.
The Texans also could use a quarterback and could select Teddy Bridgewater with the fourth overall pick. Despite all the negative press, Bridgewater is the same guy who started the season as the consensus number one pick in this draft. All he did was throw 31 touchdowns versus only 4 picks, while passing for just under 4,000 yards. His accuracy is something the Texans can sorely use and his four interceptions last season were almost less than Matt Schaub’s total number of pick sixes.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Khalil Mack DE/OLB, Buffalo
Khalil Mack is one of the most dynamic players in the 2014 NFL draft. Jacksonville has bigger needs at quarterback, running back and offensive line, but Mack is a super athlete who would upgrade their defense and pass rush. The Jaguars just signed Chris Clemons, Ziggy Hood and Red Bryant, but not one of them has the potential to pressure the edge like Mack has. In a pass happy league, edge rushers are premium commodities and this still addresses a Jaguar need. The Jaguars could still have a shot at Derek Carr, AJ McCarron or Jimmy Garoppolo later on in the draft, and could end up with a premier pass rusher at the same time.
2. St. Louis Rams – TRADE to Atlanta Falcons – Jadeveon Clowney DE , South Carolina
The Rams have a quarterback and are pretty set on the edges of their defensive line. This pick is nice, but they could still get a receiver that they want and end up with an extra pick in the process. Trading the number two selection to the Atlanta Falcons could still put them in a great position to grab at least one of the top two receivers in the draft.
Jadeveon Clowney is a player who can definitely fill a need. On the Atlanta Falcons, putting pressure on the opposing quarterback happens to be one of their biggest needs. Since letting John Abraham move on, the Falcons have been unable to replace his production. The stud from South Carolina would be more than a perfect fit. This would be a match made in heaven and if Clowney lives up to all his hype, the Falcons could realistically be back in the playoff hunt by the end of 2014.
1. Houston Texans – TRADE to Cleveland Browns – Blake Bortles QB, Central Florida
All the reports seem to have the Texans picking up either Blake Bortles or Jadeveon Clowney with their first overall pick. The truth might be that there simply is no clear cut number one pick. The Texans have a decent pass rush and there is still a question whether Blake Bortles is good enough to be the first overall pick. Trading down would offer the Texans more value in such a talent rich draft.
The rise of Blake Bortels in the current draft might have more to do with the fall of Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel, than the superior skills that Bortels is said to possess. The Texans just signed Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Browns have the more pressing quarterback need. Cleveland can get the quarterback who can throw the ball down the field and it will not come at a huge cost, since they have so many 2014 picks. Bortles might have the best raw skills of the quarterbacks in this draft, but the Texans can play it safe and address needs in their secondary or offensive line with the extra pick.