From now until May 8th, you will see plenty of draft talk from me. This will be my first of many 2014 NFL mock drafts and position rankings. It is important to remember when looking at a mock draft that these are just projected good fits for each team and are a look ahead at what to expect. During draft season, teams’ needs and players’ stock rise and fall on an extremely regular basis. So, without further ado, the Houston Texans are on the clock…
1. Houston Texans (2-14) Team Needs: Quarterback, Offensive Tackle, Safety Key Stat(s) from 2013: 21st Third Down Offense (35.9%),30th Sacks (32.0), 32nd Turnover Differential (-20). The Pick: Teddy Bridgewater | Quarterback | Louisville Unless they want to take a risk and wait for a quarterback in the second round, the Texans will go ahead and pull the trigger on the best player in the draft. It has been proven time and time again that quarterbacks make the wheels on a good team spin. The Texans are not a much different team than the playoff contender they have had the last two years. If they plug in a good, consistent quarterback then they might just hit the ground running. Recently, Bridgewater has begun to fall on draft boards, but not for me.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington) (7-9) Team Needs: Wide Receiver, Offensive Line, Safety Key Stat(s) from 2013: 19th Pass Defense (242 YPG), 27th Pass Offense (195 YPG), 28th Third Down Offense (34.4%). The Pick: Jake Matthews | Offensive Tackle | Texas A&M The Rams have the luxury of two picks within the first 13 selections. They will make their first one count by taking the draft’s top offensive lineman and providing some stability for Sam Bradford.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12) Team Needs: Quarterback, Offensive Line, Defensive End Key Stat(s) from 2013: 28th Scoring Defense (28.1 PPG), 32nd Scoring Offense (15.4 PPG), 32nd Sacks (31.0). The Pick: Johnny Manziel | Quarterback | Texas A&M Jacksonville is another team that will have a drastically improved record if they pick a top-notch quarterback. Manziel should be able to make it works with Cecil Shorts III, Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson. If Justin Blackmon is ever able to show up then that would be an added bonus.
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12) Team Needs: Quarterback, Running Back, Offensive Guard Key Stat(s) from 2013: 26th Turnover Differential (-8), 27th Run Offense (86.4 YPG), 31st Third Down Defense (44.7%). The Pick: Blake Bortles | Quarterback | Central Florida The Browns need a steady, playmaking force at quarterback if they are going to take the next step. They showed vast improvement during the very brief “Brian Hoyer Era”, and it is because he was not making big mistakes and was doing a bit more than managing the game. Bortles and wide receiver Josh Gordon will help take the Browns offense to the next level.
5. Oakland Raiders (4-12) Team Needs: Quarterback, Offensive Tackle, Secondary Key Stat(s) from 2013: 25th Pass Offense (209 YPG), 26th Third Down Offense (35.0%), 27th Turnover Differential (-9). The Pick: Jadeveon Clowney | Defensive End | South Carolina Jadeveon Clowney finally comes off the board, and to a team that could really use him. Oakland has a young defense that could get pretty good in a hurry. With Sio Moore and D.J. Hayden roaming around, Clowney gives Oakland another piece to their puzzle.
6. Atlanta Falcons (4-12) Team Needs: Tight End, Offensive Line, Defensive End Key Stat(s) from 2013: 20th Sacks Allowed (44), 29th Sacks (32), 32nd Rush Offense (77.9 YPG). The Pick: Khalil Mack | Outside Linebacker | Buffalo The Falcons did not bring veteran John Abraham back, and it hurt them mightily. They finished with just 32 sacks, meanwhile Abraham finished with about 36% of that total just by himself in Arizona. The Falcons have Osi Umenyiora, but he is getting old and they need someone to get to the quarterback.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12) Team Needs: Tight End, Offensive Tackle, Defensive End Key Stat(s) from 2013: 24th Sacks (35), 27th Sacks Allowed (47), 32nd Pass Offense (176 YPG). The Pick: Kony Ealy | Defensive End | Missouri The Buccaneers defense could get really good in a hurry if they add a little bit here and there to the front seven. Putting Kony Ealy on the defensive line next to Gerald McCoy would go a long way towards being more competitive in the NFC South. Providing a good pass rush would help out their talented secondary immensely.
8. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1) Team Needs: Quarterback, Offensive Guard, Defensive End Key Stat(s) from 2013: 23rd Pass Offense (209 YPG), 30th Third Down Defense (44.2%), 31st Pass Defense (287 YPG). The Pick: Anthony Barr | Outside Linebacker | UCLA The Vikings just hired defensive mind Mike Zimmer as their head coach. Their defense is not very good. Simple solution: make the defense better. Minnesota is still having a rough go of it with their quarterback and offensive line situation, but Barr can get in and help right away. The Vikings having a good pass rush with Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith in the secondary will improve their 31st-ranked pass defense.
9. Buffalo Bills (6-10) Team Needs: Offensive Line, Defensive End, Safety Key Stat(s) from 2013: 28th Pass Offense (194 YPG), 28th Run Defense (128.9 YPG), 30th Pass Touchdowns (16). The Pick: Greg Robinson | Offensive Tackle | Auburn This is not a very sexy pick for the Bills, but using three different starting quarterbacks during the season isn’t very sexy either. Buffalo could use a bookend offensive tackle on the other side of Cordy Glenn to seal off the edges. The Bills will have a good offense if healthy, but they have got to provide their quarterback and running backs with some time and protection.
10. Detroit Lions (7-9) Team Needs: Wide Receiver, Defensive End, Secondary Key Stat(s) from 2013: 23rd Pass Defense (247 YPG), 28th Sacks (33.0), 30th Giveaways (34). The Pick: Sammy Watkins | Wide Receiver | Clemson Wide receiver is not the Lions’ biggest need, but when Sammy Watkins falls in your lap, you do not pass up on the chance to team him with Calvin Johnson. Detroit has been looking for a compliment to Johnson for years, so placing Watkins opposite of him will give them just what they need (and more).
11. Tennessee Titans (7-9) Team Needs: Running Back, Defensive End, Safety Key Stat(s) from 2013: 20th Run Defense (112.2 YPG), 20th Pass Touchdowns (22), 21st Pass Offense (219 YPG). The Pick: Taylor Lewan | Offensive Tackle | Michigan Titans offensive tackle Michael Roos had a good season, but they may just show David Stewart the door. That leaves a big hole on the line that needs to be filled. Adding Taylor Lewan to an offensive line that already has Roos, Andy Levitre and Chance Warmack is something new coach Ken Whisenhunt can definitely work with.
12. New York Giants (7-9) Team Needs: Offensive Line, Linebacker, Cornerback Key Stat(s) from 2013: 29th Run Offense (83.3 YPG), 31st Passer Rating (67.6), 32nd Giveaways (44). The Pick: Darqueze Dennard | Cornerback | Michigan State I am not too worried about the Giants offense. The pieces are there, they just have to not get sacked 39 times, and thus turn the ball over 44 times. They need some attention either through free agency or later in the draft, but they cannot pass up on Darqueze Dennard here. Terrell Thomas played a full season this year, but they need insurance.
13. St. Louis Rams (7-9) Team Needs: Wide Receiver, Offensive Line, Safety Key Stat(s) from 2013: 19th Pass Defense (242 YPG), 27th Pass Offense (195 YPG), 28th Third Down Offense (34.4%). The Pick: Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix | Safety | Alabama Now that the Rams have addressed one need with the second pick, they can now address another with the thirteenth pick – safety. The Rams snag the draft’s best safety here to add to a young, talented defense.
14. Chicago Bears (8-8) Team Needs: Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Safety Key Stat(s) from 2013: 30th Points Allowed (29.9 PPG), 31st Run Touchdowns Allowed (22),32nd Run Defense (161.4). The Pick: Louis Nix III | Defensive Tackle | Notre Dame It’s quite simple here: the Bears were horrible against the run last year, so they add Louis Nix to team with Henry Melton to make sure they don’t allow over 160 yards per game on the ground again.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) Team Needs: Offensive Tackle, Defensive Line, Secondary Key Stat(s) from 2013: 22nd Third Down Defense (39.6%), 27th Sacks (34), 28th Run Offense (86.4 YPG). The Pick: Stephon Tuitt | Defensive End | Notre Dame Scoping the Steelers’ roster, you could go any number of ways with this pick. However, I will give the Steelers the benefit of the doubt and say the returning players they had who were injured last year will give them quite a boost. However, they could really use an upgrade on the defensive line. Adding Stephon Tuitt into the mix is a slam dunk.
16. Baltimore Ravens (8-8) Team Needs: Wide Receiver, Offensive Line, Cornerback Key Stat(s) from 2013: 22nd Turnover Differential (-5), 29th Yards per Reception (10.8), 30th Run Offense (83.0 YPG). The Pick: Marqise Lee | Wide Receiver | USC Without many members of last year’s Super Bowl winning team on offense, the Baltimore Ravens failed to even make the playoffs this year. They need help on the offensive line, but Joe Flacco also needs weapons to get the ball to. Dennis Pitta coming back healthy next year will help, but the Ravens need offensive playmakers badly. Marqise Lee is just the guy for the job.
17. Dallas Cowboys (8-8) Team Needs: Defensive End, Linebacker, Safety Key Stat(s) from 2013: 26th Scoring Defense (27.0 PPG),30th Pass Defense (287.0 YPG),32nd Total Defense (415.3 YPG). The Pick: RaShede Hageman | Defensive Tackle | Minnesota The Cowboys offense is set, but last year their defense was offensive (thank you). Pairing RaShede Hageman next to Jason Hatcher will give the Cowboys a great defensive line whether Anthony Spencer is back or not.
18. New York Jets (8-8) Team Needs: Wide Receiver, Offensive Guard, Cornerback Key Stat(s) from 2013: 30th Turnover Differential (-14), 31st Pass Offense (183.0 YPG), 32nd Pass Touchdowns (13). The Pick: Mike Evans | Wide Receiver | Texas A&M Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Jeff Cumberland. For the love of God, someone please get Geno Smith some help! At least giving him a big-time receiver will show whether or not Smith is for real.
19. Miami Dolphins (8-8) Team Needs: Running Back, Offensive Line, Cornerback Key Stat(s) from 2013: 26th Run Offense (90.0 YPG), 27th Total Offense (312.9 YPG), 32nd Sacks Allowed (58). The Pick: Cyrus Kouandjio | Offensive Tackle | Alabama The Dolphins’ offensive line is a mess. After franchise left tackle Jake Long left in free agency last year, there was the whole Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin fiasco. Between Incognito, Martin and center Mike Pouncey, they missed a total of seventeen games. Are Incognito and Martin even going to be with the Dolphins in 2014? Miami needs some assurance that they will have quality linemen available when they season starts.
20. Arizona Cardinals (10-6) Team Needs: Offensive Tackle, Outside Linebacker, Cornerback Key Stat(s) from 2013: 19th Passer Rating (83.9), 23rd Run Offense (96.3 YPG), 29th Interceptions Thrown (22). The Pick: Zack Martin | Offensive Tackle | Notre Dame After Clemson linebacker Vic Beasley announced he was returning to school, I had the Cardinals going back to their biggest need – offensive line. Martin is a great prospect who will be able to play either guard or tackle for Arizona – whatever they need him to.
21. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) Team Needs: Tight End, Linebacker, Safety Key Stat(s) from 2013: 24th Pass Defense (247.0 YPG), 25th Run Defense (125.0 YPG), 27th Pass Touchdowns Allowed (30). The Pick: Calvin Pryor | Safety | Louisville It is no secret that the Packers’ pass defense has been pretty bad for a while. Selecting a play-making safety here in Calvin Pryor is just the way to go. If members of their front seven are going to continue to get hurt, then the least they can do is put some better safeties out there.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) Team Needs: Linebacker, Cornerback, Safety Key Stat(s) from 2013: 20th Sacks (37), 24th Third Down Defense (40.3%), 29th Total Defense (394.2 YPG), The Pick: C.J. Mosley | Linebacker | Alabama The Eagles will still need to go back after this pick to select some defensive backs, but this fit seems excellent for both sides. Mosley can be the hard-nosed linebacker this team needs on the inside.
23. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) Team Needs: Wide Receiver, Defensive Line, Inside Linebacker Key Stat(s) from 2013: 22nd Run Defense (120.2 YPG), 25th Pass Defense (248.0 YPG), 27th Average Attempted Pass (6.5 YPAT). The Pick: Eric Ebron | Tight End | North Carolina The Chiefs’ top two tight ends are Anthony Fasano and Sean McGrath. Getting a playmaker at the position will make their offense even better.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5) Team Needs: Outside Linebacker, Cornerback, Safety Key Stat(s) from 2013: 19th Penalties (102), 25th Giveaways (30). The Pick: Justin Gilbert | Cornerback | Oklahoma State The Bengals have suffered continued injuries to their defensive backs including star corner Leon Hall. They need to not only get insurance for Hall, but another starting caliber player to put in the mix with him and Dre Kirkpatrick.
25. San Diego Chargers (9-7) Team Needs: Offensive Guard, Outside Linebacker, Cornerback Key Stat(s) from 2013: 20th Third Down Defense (38.9%), 27th Interceptions (11), 29th Pass Defense (259.0 YPG) The Pick: Jason Verrett | Cornerback | TCU The biggest weapon the Chargers are missing is a clear top corner. With some time, Verrett can step in and fill that void, but it will take time. The Chargers did not have many weaknesses in 2013, but pass defense was one of them.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis) (4-12) Team Needs: Quarterback, Running Back, Offensive Guard Key Stat(s) from 2013: 26th Turnover Differential (-8), 27th Run Offense (86.4 YPG), 31st Third Down Defense (44.7%). The Pick: Ka’Deem Carey | Running Back | Arizona The Browns got their quarterback, now they need to go get a third piece to create a three-headed monster with Josh Gordon. That player is Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey. Carey will be a massive upgrade over Willis McGahee, Edwin Baker, Fozzy Whittaker and Chris Ogbonnaya. The Browns’ offense could be pretty good with some clock control, and a strong run game will help with that.
27. New Orleans Saints (11-5) Team Needs: Offensive Tackle, Outside Linebacker, Cornerback Key Stat(s) from 2013: 25th Run Offense (92.1 YPG) The Pick: Ryan Shazier | Outside Linebacker | Ohio State The Saints had one of the most drastic defensive turnarounds I have ever seen from 2012 to 2013, and it is all thanks to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The defense is good, but it is not done being built. They could still use a solid outside linebacker, and that is where former Buckeye Ryan Shazier comes in.
28. Carolina Panthers (12-4) Team Needs: Wide Receiver, Offensive Line, Cornerback Key Stat(s) from 2013: 26th Total Offense (316.8 YPG), 29th Pass Offense (190.0 YPG). The Pick: Odell Beckham Jr. | Wide Receiver | LSU The Panthers cannot keep feeding Cam Newton second-rate talent forever. Newton is lucky that Steve Smith has been around because the front office just keeps giving him guys like Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon LaFell and Domenik Hixon. Get Newton a big-time weapon!
29. New England Patriots (12-4) Team Needs: Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Cornerback Key Stat(s) from 2013: 14th Pass Touchdowns (25), 18th Pass Defense (239.0 YPG), 30th Run Defense (134.1 YPG). The Pick: Jace Amaro | Tight End | Texas Tech This is a total Patriots move if there ever was one. It is clear that New England’s passing game is missing something even with Rob Gronkowski in the lineup. Selecting Amaro provides insurance for the oft-injured Gronkowski, as well as a replacement for Aaron Hernandez.
30. San Francisco 49ers (12-4) Team Needs: Wide Receiver, Defensive Line, Cornerback Key Stat(s) from 2013: 18th Third Down Offense (36.5%), 21st Penalties (103), 30th Pass Offense (186.0 YPG). The Pick: Kelvin Benjamin | Wide Receiver | Florida State This statistic includes not having Michael Crabtree for almost the whole year, but the 49ers should be doing a lot better than just 186 yards per game in the air. Colin Kaepernick has a canon for an arm and Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin and Crabtree at his disposal. Boldin will not be around forever and the 49ers like to take their time with rookies, so Kelvin Benjamin will have time to grow into his role with the 49ers.
31. Denver Broncos (13-3) Team Needs: Offensive Tackle, Defensive Line, Cornerback Key Stat(s) from 2013: 22nd Points Allowed (24.9 PPG), 27th Pass Defense (254.4 YPG), 29th Penalties (117). The Pick: Marcus Roberson | Cornerback | Florida Most would consider the Broncos an elite team, but once you get to their defense, it stops there. Champ Bailey is old, Chris Harris Jr. just tore his ACL, Rahim Moore missed a good portion of the season and Duke Ihenacho is nothing to write home about. The Broncos need help in their defensive backfield and they need it now.
32. Seattle Seahawks (13-3) Team Needs: Wide Receiver, Tight End, Offensive Line Key Stat(s) from 2013: 23rd Sacks Allowed (44), 26th Pass Offense (202.0 YPG), 32nd Penalties (128). The Pick: David Yankey | Offensive Guard | Stanford Last up in the first round is the Seattle Seahawks. Here, they will take measures to both protect Russell Wilson and make sure their run game stays elite for as long as possible. David Yankey is the top guard prospect available, so the Seahawks do not hesitate making him their selection.
Jake Arthur is the Associate Editor at the Indy Sports Report covering the Indianapolis Colts and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Colts and has full media access. You can follow Jake and ISRon Twitter.
Jake Arthur is the Associate Editor/Pro Sports Editor at the Indiana Sports Report covering the Indianapolis Colts and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Colts and has full media access. He is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.
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