2014 NFL Mock Draft 1.0
Four QBs go early in Todd McShay's projection of every first-round pick
Updated: December 18, 2013, 12:45 PM ET
By Todd McShay | ESPN Insider
Who will be the top picks in the 2014 NFL Draft? Todd McShay takes a look.
We still have a long way to go before the 2014 NFL draft kicks off on May 8, but we are beginning to see both the draft order and rankings of the top prospects take shape.
With that in mind, we've put together our first mock draft for 2014.
Some interesting trends are already beginning to emerge, including the fact that many of the teams likely to hold down high picks are in need of an upgrade at the quarterback position. Demand for QBs always seems to outweigh the supply, but what makes this year's class of quarterbacks so interesting at this point is the wide-ranging opinions on the top talents -- and as of now, we're not even sure if the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel are leaving school early for the NFL.
Here is our projection for all 32 first-round picks for the 2014 NFL draft.
(Notes: Draft order listed below is based on team winning percentages through Week 15 of the NFL season, and draft-eligible underclassmen are noted with an asterisk.)
1. Teddy Bridgewater* - Houston Texans (2-12)
COLLEGE: LouisvilleAGE: 21HT: 6-2WT: 220POS: QB
Analysis: This is a tough call right off the bat. I have Bridgewater ranked as the top quarterback prospect in this class, but just ninth overall. The question for the Texans is going to be this: Do you have a player at another position who grades out considerably higher? (Possibilities include Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews or South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney.) Because if not, given their need at QB and the importance of that position, my guess is that they'd talk themselves into taking Bridgewater -- or whichever QB ranks highest on their board in May.
Bridgewater has great football intelligence, is mentally and physically tough, and has proved he can beat opponents from inside the pocket; he can read defenses, has a quick release and is very accurate. If he isn't the top overall pick, it'll be because of questions about his durability. He'll also need to hold off UCF quarterback Blake Bortles during the draft process. Bortles isn't as polished as Bridgewater but does have a higher ceiling.
2. Jake Matthews - St. Louis Rams (6-8) (From WAS)
COLLEGE: Texas A&MAGE: 21HT: 6-5WT: 309POS: OT
Analysis: St. Louis owns this pick as part of the trade that brought Robert Griffin III to Washington during the 2012 draft. If this year's QB draft class were on the same level as that one, which had two elite prospects in RG III and Andrew Luck, then perhaps the Rams would consider taking a quarterback here. But I think that Sam Bradford can be the guy for them at QB when he's healthy, which is why they have to place a huge priority on keeping Bradford upright.
Enter Matthews, who has the pedigree, work ethic, durability and skills as both a run- and pass-blocker to be a very good player for St. Louis. He has the versatility to be plugged in at right tackle on day one opposite Jake Long, and to eventually replace Long at left tackle. With a healthy Bradford and improved offensive line, the Rams could be really good next season.
3. Blake Bortles* - Oakland Raiders (4-10)
COLLEGE: UCFAGE: 21HT: 6-4WT: 228POS: QB
Analysis: The Raiders need to upgrade at the QB position, and even though he isn't the most well-known prospect, Bortles has the potential to be a top-10 pick. In fact, it wouldn't shock me if he ends up going ahead of Bridgewater.
Bortles has good size, arm strength and accuracy, and has proved he can win from inside the pocket. He also possesses good character and a strong football IQ. A nice bonus is that he's built to last in the NFL because he's big and mobile enough to move around. He isn't Cam Newton, but more of a cross between Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger.
4. Johnny Manziel* - Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10)
COLLEGE: Texas A&MAGE: 21HT: 6-0WT: 200POS: QB
Analysis: This will be a tough decision. Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley is hoping to find a leader at QB who can elevate the whole team, the way Russell Wilson did with Seattle in 2012. Is Manziel that guy? I think the key for Manziel is going to be how he interviews. Some teams are going to fall in love with his confidence, whereas others will be turned off by him. One reason why I think Manziel fits in Jacksonville is that offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has proved throughout his career that he can successfully adapt his system to his personnel, which is a must for any team that brings in Manziel, given his exceptional mobility and improvisational skills.
Manziel doesn't have ideal size, but I've been really impressed this season with how he improved his delivery mechanics to get better velocity on his throws, and his improvement at going through his progressions. If he can continue to develop in the NFL, he has a chance to be really good.
5. Jadeveon Clowney* - Atlanta Falcons (4-10)
COLLEGE: South CarolinaAGE: 20HT: 6-5WT: 258POS: DE
Analysis: The Falcons are in dire need of an edge rusher, and in this scenario they'll get one in the form of our No. 1-ranked prospect in the draft. There's something of a gamble involved with Clowney in that his motor ran hot and cold toward the end of the season, but he isn't a bad kid and he has the potential to develop into a double-digit sack guy, a three-down lineman and a dominant player overall. I see a lot of Julius Peppers in him; Peppers hasn't always given the best effort, but I don't know of many teams that wouldn't want him. Clowney's a tremendous value if he drops this far; if it weren't for the number of QB-needy teams picking ahead of Atlanta, he'd go earlier.
6. Derek Carr - Cleveland Browns (4-10)
COLLEGE: Fresno StateAGE: 22HT: 6-2WT: 209POS: QB
Analysis: Quarterback is the Browns' top priority. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner wants a QB with size and the arm strength to push the ball down the field, and that's what Carr provides. He is a little bit of a reach here, but there's a lot to like about his game. He had a monster 2013 season (4,866 yards, 48 TDs to just 7 INTs), is very accurate and has great touch on short-to-intermediate throws, has a high football IQ and gets the ball out quickly. He can improve his deep-ball accuracy, but has the arm strength to make all the NFL throws and the maturity and experience to come in and play right away.
7. Anthony Barr - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10)
COLLEGE: UCLAAGE: 21HT: 6-4WT: 244POS: OLB
Analysis: We don't know if the Bucs will undergo a coaching change this offseason, but assuming that Greg Schiano is still there, I think that rookie QB Mike Glennon will at least be given the opportunity to win next season's starting job. And in this scenario, there isn't really a QB prospect worthy of the pick here.
That will leave the Bucs with the tough decision of going for an offensive tackle in Michigan's Taylor Lewan or an edge rusher in Barr whom we grade out several spots higher. I think they'd go with the better player in Barr, even though he's not an ideal fit in the 4-3 defense Tampa currently runs. He's an eat-breathe-sleep football guy who is just starting to come into his own as a player, and it won't take him long to bulk up to 260 pounds if that's what the Bucs need from him. Even if he isn't able to play as many snaps as a rookie as you'd want from your starting defensive end, he'd still have an immediate impact as a pass-rusher.
8. Khalil Mack - Minnesota Vikings (4-9-1)
COLLEGE: BuffaloAGE: 22HT: 6-2WT: 245POS: OLB
Analysis: This is a tough one to project. Mack isn't a perfect fit for the Vikings' 4-3 defense, as his ideal position is that of a 3-4 outside linebacker. But Mack is one of the 10 best players in this draft class, and his versatility -- he can rush the passer, defend the run and drop into coverage -- and nose for the ball remind me of Clay Matthews. Minnesota GM Rick Spielman often preaches the importance of taking the best player available, and in this scenario, that's Mack. My guess is the Vikings would take him and use him as a pass-rusher early, and bulk him up over time so that he can eventually replace Jared Allen at defensive end. The Vikings have a need at QB, but there isn't one worthy of being selected here.
9. Taylor Lewan - Buffalo Bills (5-9)
COLLEGE: MichiganAGE: 22HT: 6-7WT: 314POS: OT
Analysis: This scenario works out well for Buffalo. The Bills need to upgrade the O-line and provide QB EJ Manuel with more time to throw, and Lewan could immediately help solidify this unit. Lewan isn't an exceptional athlete but he has enough quickness to get by when coupled with his physicality and mean streak. I've written a few times this season that even though Lewan doesn't always look like a prototype left tackle, he is very effective in run blocking and pass protection. Safety might be seen as a bigger need for Buffalo, but typically if you have a chance to take an offensive tackle over a safety in the first round, you do it.
10. Cyrus Kouandjio* - Tennessee Titans (5-9)
COLLEGE: AlabamaAGE: 20HT: 6-5WT: 310POS: OT
Analysis: I don't think QB is an option for the Titans in this scenario, and that they'd be better off waiting for the second or third rounds to land a guy like LSU's Zach Mettenberger or Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo. Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would fill a need at safety, but I think they'd go for his Bama teammate Kouandjio and address their need at offensive tackle.
Kouandjio is not a finished product, struggling with his hand placement and against quicker D-linemen this season, but there's no denying his talent. He's 6-5, 310 pounds, moves well and is going to continue to get better. He's still relatively new to the sport (he was born in Cameroon and grew up a soccer fan) and has shown good improvement this season, so he has a high ceiling.
11. C.J. Mosley - New York Giants (5-9)
COLLEGE: AlabamaAGE: 21HT: 6-2WT: 228POS: OLB
Analysis: The Giants need help on the offensive line, which is why Michigan's Taylor Lewan and Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio will be options if they drop to them. But I actually think interior O-line is a bigger issue for New York, and when you draft this high in the order as rarely as the Giants do, you need to get more impact out of the pick than a guard.
The Giants have drafted just two linebackers in the first round since 1980 (Carl Banks and Lawrence Taylor -- I'm not sure why they stopped after those two), but Mosley is worthy of the pick. He's an every-down linebacker who excels in the passing game. His medical history might be a concern (dislocated elbow, dislocated hip, shoulder surgery), but if he checks out he's a good pick here. He has great instincts, good burst as a pass-rusher and can defend receivers one-on-one and cover a lot of ground in the zone.
12. Louis Nix III - Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8)
COLLEGE: Notre DameAGE: 22HT: 6-3WT: 340POS: NT
Analysis: Nix might be a little bit of a reach here. He didn't have a great season in 2013 for the Fighting Irish, and when NFL teams get a look at a couple of bad tapes of his play (he didn't perform well against Michigan State, in particular) his stock could drop. But I still have a hard time seeing him fall out of the first round, given the way he dominated in 2012. With his size and the way he can move, he has the potential to be a very good player. If the Steelers are comfortable with his durability and work ethic, he could become their new Casey Hampton. Offensive tackle and secondary are two other need areas they could address here.
13. Sammy Watkins* - New York Jets (6-8)
COLLEGE: ClemsonAGE: 20HT: 6-0WT: 205POS: WR
Analysis: Some Jets fans will say that they need a QB, but they just took one last year in Geno Smith and they will (and should) give him time to develop. New York has good talent on defense, so the biggest issues to address are the offensive skill positions and O-line. Watkins is perfect for what the Jets need, a guy who possesses top-level acceleration and has a second gear when he needs it. Especially with Santonio Holmes likely gone after this season, the Jets need a vertical and run-after-catch threat, and Watkins could be a big difference-maker for them. At No. 13, he's a good value pick.
14. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix* - St. Louis Rams (6-8)
COLLEGE: AlabamaAGE: 20HT: 6-1WT: 208POS: S
Analysis: This might be something of a reach, but I actually think that safety has taken on more importance with the increasing number of slot receivers and pass-catching tight ends. Clinton-Dix doesn't have elite man-to-man cover skills, but he has good range when asked to cover the middle of the field and very good closing burst. He comes in hard, blows up plays and isn't afraid to mix things up. He's exactly what you're looking for in terms of a complete safety, and he fills another need for the Rams.
15. Marqise Lee* - Detroit Lions (7-7)
COLLEGE: USCAGE: 22HT: 6-0WT: 195POS: WR
Analysis: The Lions could consider a cornerback here, but in this scenario with a top-10 talent dropping to No. 15, and Detroit needing a No. 2 receiver, Lee could be too tempting to pass up. Lee's game is built on speed, and he's a big-play threat as both a vertical route runner and with the ball in his hands. No, the Lions haven't had the best of luck with first-round WRs outside of Calvin Johnson, but when you consider that they have a QB in Matthew Stafford who excels as a downfield passer and they could open things up even more with a speed threat opposite Megatron, this pick begins to make a lot of sense.
16. Stephon Tuitt* - Dallas Cowboys (7-7)
COLLEGE: Notre DameAGE: 20HT: 6-6WT: 303POS: DL
Analysis: The Cowboys' choice here could just come down to taking the best defensive player available, given the issues they've had on that side of the ball. But in particular, they need D-line help in a very bad way, and I think Tuitt would be an interesting fit. He makes the most sense as a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 alignment, but given his athleticism and quickness I feel as though he could also work as a 3-technique D-tackle who gets up the field and disrupts. Tuitt is still a work in progress, but his ceiling is awfully high. Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan is another option here.
17. Justin Gilbert - San Diego Chargers (7-7)
COLLEGE: Oklahoma StateAGE: 22HT: 6-0WT: 200POS: CB
Analysis: The Chargers' top need is a pass-rushing 3-4 outside linebacker, so if Buffalo's Khalil Mack drops to this spot, he's the slam-dunk pick. But with him off the board in this scenario, there really isn't another 3-4 OLB who belongs in the first round. San Diego also needs O-line help, but I think Gilbert could be the pick here. He came back hungry this season after a subpar 2012 campaign, and proved to be one of the top cornerbacks in college football. He is a playmaker who is good both in coverage and versus the run, and he has very good size for the position. Other CB options include Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard.
18. Eric Ebron* - Green Bay Packers (7-6-1)
COLLEGE: UNCAGE: 20HT: 6-4WT: 231POS: TE
Analysis: Ebron has a chance to be a star. I'm not saying he's Jimmy Graham, but Ebron does possess a lot of the same qualities as the Saints TE. And to me Ebron's the only guy on that level in this draft class. He is a mismatch for defenses because of his ability to stretch the field with his speed and then box out defenders and adjust to the ball in the air with his excellent body control. He will fit best as an "F" tight end early in his career, but has the size potential (he added nearly 20 pounds this past offseason) to develop into an adequate in-line blocker down the road. Also, this pick would make a lot of sense for the Packers considering the uncertainty surrounding Jermichael Finley's future with the team.
19. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu* - Philadelphia Eagles (8-6)
COLLEGE: OregonAGE: 20HT: 5-10WT: 190POS: CB
Analysis: I don't think the Eagles are going to find the pass-rusher they're looking for at this point in the draft, so taking Ekpre-Olomu would help them fill their second-biggest need. He is a ball hawk and playmaker with very good anticipation and route-recognition skills, and he's a fluid, flexible athlete who isn't afraid to come up and support the run. Eagles coach Chip Kelly has a familiarity with Ekpre-Olomu, having coached him at Oregon. Receivers like Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin would fill a need as well, if the Eagles opt to pass on a corner.
20. Mike Evans* - Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
COLLEGE: Texas A&MAGE: 20HT: 6-4WT: 220POS: WR
Analysis: Baltimore is a team that is always looking to take the best available player, but I think that more than anything this team needs to upgrade QB Joe Flacco's weapons this offseason, and Evans would do exactly that. If you watch Alshon Jeffery play for the Bears this season, you'll get an idea of what makes Evans so intriguing. Jeffery isn't a great route runner, doesn't have great acceleration and is a long strider, but none of that matters because he's able to separate when the ball is in the air. He looks like he's covered right up until the moment he makes the catch.
That's something you can pull off only when you're built like Jeffery and Evans, which is why Evans is able to overcome some of the same quickness limitations as Jeffery. A former basketball player who has improved throughout his two seasons at Texas A&M, Evans has strong hands and is tough to beat in jump-ball situations.
21. Dominique Easley - Chicago Bears (8-6)
COLLEGE: FloridaAGE: 21HT: 6-2WT: 284POS: DL
Analysis: Easley suffered two ACL injuries during his career in Gainesville, Fla., so obviously this pick is contingent upon him passing the team's medical requirements -- it's easy to see him sliding to the second round because of his medical history. But if he does pass, he's a perfect fit for the Bears as a 3-technique D-tackle, especially with Henry Melton coming off of injury and his contract coming up. Easley may have been the most dominant defensive player in college football this season before his injury, and he's capable of being very disruptive when healthy. Minnesota DT Ra'Shede Hageman and Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard could also get a look here.
22. Timmy Jernigan* - Miami Dolphins (8-6)
COLLEGE: FSUAGE: 21HT: 6-2WT: 298POS: DT
Analysis: Offensive line is the Dolphins' biggest need, but there isn't much value available in this scenario. Meanwhile, Miami also needs a D-tackle and getting Jernigan this late in the first round is a steal (he ranks No. 7 overall in our prospect rankings). He is strong at the point of attack against the run but also has the ability to get upfield and disrupt opponents in the backfield as an interior pass-rusher (10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks this season). His first-step quickness and range versus the run are very good.
23. Jordan Matthews - Cleveland Browns (4-10) (from IND)
COLLEGE: VanderbiltAGE: 21HT: 6-3WT: 201POS: WR
Analysis: The Browns know they have a star No. 1 receiver in Josh Gordon, and now they just need to find a reliable No. 2 target. Matthews is the perfect fit for this role, as he doesn't have elite physical traits but does possess good size and deceptive speed to go with separation skills and strong hands. He has been very productive for Vandy even while dealing with double coverage for a long time now. If the Browns take Carr early and then Matthews here, for the first time in a long time this team is going to have a chance to be good on offense.
24. Scott Crichton* - Cincinnati Bengals (9-5)
COLLEGE: Oregon StateAGE: 21HT: 6-3WT: 260POS: DE
Analysis: This pick is dependent upon whether the Bengals decide they want to pay Michael Johnson this offseason. If they let him go, then Crichton fits the bill as a replacement. We'll have to see whether he comes out early or not, but he has been unbelievably productive at Oregon State and one of the best D-linemen in college football the past couple of years. He isn't an elite athlete but he has a quick first step, is a relentless pass-rusher and recorded 16 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks this season even while facing a ton of double-team attention. If the Bengals choose to go in another direction, LB and CB are two other need areas.
25. Morgan Moses - Arizona Cardinals (9-5)
COLLEGE: VirginiaAGE: 22HT: 6-6WT: 332POS: OT
Analysis: Quarterback is a need position for the Cardinals, but there isn't one worth drafting at this spot. They'd be better off getting a guy like LSU's Zach Mettenberger on Day 2. Arizona's next-biggest need is offensive tackle, and Moses offers good value here. Nobody knows who he is because he was an O-lineman on a bad college team, but he was one of the most improved players I saw on tape this season. He has good physical tools, and he looked so much more comfortable at left tackle in 2013 than he did at right tackle in previous years. He has the potential to develop into a good starting left tackle.
26. Darqueze Dennard - New England Patriots (10-4)
COLLEGE: Michigan StateAGE: 22HT: 5-11WT: 189POS: CB
Analysis: Minnesota DT Ra'Shede Hageman would be a good fit for the Patriots because of his versatility. But they also have a need at cornerback, and Dennard is one of a few CBs vying for a spot in the first round. Dennard is a tough, experienced playmaker with above-average size and great instincts when the ball is in the air. He plays smart, and really had a great season in 2013.
27. Kelvin Benjamin* - Carolina Panthers (10-4)
COLLEGE: FSUAGE: 22HT: 6-4WT: 233POS: WR
Analysis: Cornerback and safety are two other need positions for the Panthers, but to me, this pick should be used to add another weapon around Cam Newton. Benjamin has really come into his own this season. His size is exceptional and he does a great job of adjusting in the air and coming down with jump balls. He may have some early bumps in the road in his NFL career, the way he did at FSU, but then again so did Alshon Jeffery, a similarly built WR. Benjamin could develop into a big-time playmaker for Carolina, especially given Newton's ability to run around and buy time. They'd be a scary combo to defend when plays break down.
28. Ra'Shede Hageman - San Francisco 49ers (10-4)
COLLEGE: MinnesotaAGE: 23HT: 6-5WT: 307POS: DT
Analysis: Hageman had a monster season for Minnesota in 2013, and I think he is one of those guys who will go on to be a better pro than he was a college player. He is tall, long and well-built with good mobility, and he can take on blocks against the run and is an effective bull rusher against the pass. Moreover, he's a perfect fit for the 49ers. He is at his best playing as a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 alignment, and he could come in and not have to be an every-down guy right away before eventually replacing Justin Smith in the starting lineup. With some improvement to his technique and hand placement, Hageman could be a really good player.
29. Marcus Roberson* - New Orleans Saints (10-4)
COLLEGE: FloridaAGE: 21HT: 5-11WT: 195POS: CB
Analysis: Roberson isn't the elite athlete that his fellow Florida CB Loucheiz Purifoy is, but he is the better cover corner, and that's what the Saints need here. He wasn't 100 percent healthy the entire season and he still needs to improve his bulk and strength, but from the tape I've studied, Roberson has developed fine recognition skills and displays the balance, hip fluidity and closing burst seen in most good starting cornerbacks in the NFL. Offensive tackle is another need for New Orleans, so Tennessee's Antonio Richardson or Notre Dame's Zack Martin could be options.
30. Paul Richardson* - Kansas City Chiefs (11-3)
COLLEGE: ColoradoAGE: 21HT: 6-1WT: 170POS: WR
Analysis: The Chiefs have options here, and could address either the defensive line or get an inside linebacker, but they could be tempted to add another pass-catcher. Dwayne Bowe has been disappointing this season, and Donnie Avery and Dexter McCluster are similar in that they are smaller receivers -- which is why the size-speed combination of Richardson is intriguing. He was productive this season even while playing without much talent around him on a bad Colorado team, and I think he's a guy who will rise as the draft process continues.
31. Zack Martin - Denver Broncos (11-3)
COLLEGE: Notre DameAGE: 23HT: 6-4WT: 308POS: OT
Analysis: There is one reason why the Broncos are Super Bowl contenders this season, and that same reason is what is going to make them contenders again in 2014: Peyton Manning. So even though Denver has other need areas, its top priority needs to be protecting its quarterback. The more tape I watch of Martin, the more I like him. He is consistent, shows up to play all the time and is versatile (he's capable of moving inside to guard, but also athletic enough to stay out at tackle). The Broncos can address their other needs -- WR, CB and D-line among them -- later on in the draft.
32. Antonio Richardson* - Seattle Seahawks (12-2)
COLLEGE: TennesseeAGE: 21HT: 6-6WT: 330POS: OT
Analysis: If FSU WR Kelvin Benjamin or Colorado WR Paul Richardson drops to them, the Seahawks could have an interesting decision to make. Whether they go with a pass-catcher could depend on what they're expecting to get out of Percy Harvin next season. But in this scenario, I have them addressing offensive line, a position that hasn't been performing at a high level for them, in part because of Russell Okung's injury issues. Antonio Richardson is far from a finished product, but he has a chance to be a good starting tackle in the NFL if he can improve his leverage, balance and hand placement. He's got the physical tools; he's a big man with long arms and moves well.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.