There are some incredible college football players eligible to participate in the 2014 NFL draft.
Jadeveon Clowney—the phenomenal pass-rusher out of South Carolina—will almost certainly be the top pick next year. In fact, if he'd have been eligible for this year's draft there's no doubt he would have been the first man off the board.
Quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater, Tajh Boyd, Brett Hundley, Johnny Manziel and David Fales all have a chance of being selected in the first round. This class of quarterbacks is loaded with talent—a far cry from this past year's draft when only one signal-caller was selected in Round 1.
You won't see a running back in this mock, because like the 2013 draft class, there aren't any worth taking any earlier than the second round.
This mock is an exercise in discussing the players worthy of being selected in the first round. There's no way to predict how the season will pan out, so please don't get caught up in how teams are ordered.
A few selections will be highlighted with italics for additional analysis.
1. Oakland Raiders—DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
This 6'6", 272-pound pass-rushing phenom has NFL scouts drooling. He's big enough to play as a strong-side pass-rusher, yet Clowney is also quick enough to play as a pure edge rusher. Barring an unfortunate injury, Clowney will be the top pick of the 2014 NFL draft.
2. Arizona Cardinals—QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
New Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians loves big, strong-armed quarterbacks who can drive the ball downfield and stretch defenses. That's why Arizona traded for Carson Palmer this spring, and there's a good chance Palmer will greatly improve the team's ability to move the ball on offense.
That said, the Cardinals won't pass up an opportunity to land Bridgewater, even if Palmer plays well in 2013.
A pure pocket passer, Bridgewater is clearly the top signal-caller in the 2014 draft class. Blessed with plenty of arm strength, he is also highly accurate and knows how to finesse balls into tight spots using excellent touch.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars—QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson
As the NFL is becoming more and more dual-quarterback friendly, players like Boyd will become more valuable. The Jaguars have the worst quarterback situation in the NFL at this time, and this team will certainly be looking to upgrade in 2014.
4. Cleveland Browns—QB David Fales, San Jose State
Brandon Weeden isn't the long-term answer for the Browns, and neither is Jason Campbell. It's a shame this team isn't already set at the quarterback position, because the pieces are in place everywhere else for the Browns to become serious contenders for the AFC North crown.
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner would love to get his hands on Fales—a gun slinger with excellent accuracy.
The JUCO transfer out of Monterey Peninsula College put the NFL on notice last season, completing 72.5 percent of his passes for 4,193 yards with 33 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.
If Fales improves upon these numbers in 2013, he could become a player some teams would grade higher than Bridgewater or Boyd.
5. New York Jets—WR Marqise Lee, USC
The Jets are "secure" at the quarterback position right now with Geno Smith, Mark Sanchez and David Garrard. There's almost no chance this team will be looking at drafting another quarterback in 2014 (at least not in the early rounds), but adding skilled receivers will be high on the list. Lee is an electric playmaker who will make a significant impact as a rookie.
6. San Diego Chargers—OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
After the 2013 NFL draft, the Chargers are still a bit lean as far as offensive linemen are concerned. Drafting D.J. Fluker should help, but adding Lewan to protect Philip Rivers' blind side in 2014 would be a huge upgrade.
7. Buffalo Bills—OLB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Mosley is the most complete linebacker Nick Saban has had in the past few years—a scary thought considering the amount of talent to come out of Alabama of late. Mosley can do it all: he'll rush the passer, defends well in space and is a tackling machine.
8. Kansas City Chiefs—NT Louis Nix, Notre Dame
A huge man, Nix (6'3" and 330 pounds) has the agility to burst through gaps and make plays behind the line. Adding him to play the nose in Kansas City's defense would significantly alter the way offenses blocked up front, allowing the team's pass-rushers more one-on-one opportunities on the edge.
9. Philadelphia Eagles—WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Playing second fiddle to DeAndre Hopkins last year, Watkins still managed to catch 57 passes for 708 yards and and a touchdown. As Boyd's top receiver in 2013, he should really blossom. The Eagles have some excellent receivers but lack size at the position. Watkins would give Chip Kelly's offense another big-time playmaker.
10. Tennessee Titans—DE Morgan Breslin, USC
Last year, Breslin tallied 13 sacks and 19.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in his first season at USC after transferring from the JUCO ranks. If this young man continues to put up these kind of numbers in 2013, he might not fall to this point in the draft. Needless to say, if he does fall, the Titans won't hesitate to add a premier pass-rusher.
11. Detroit Lions—CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
The Lions haven't invested in top-tier cornerbacks in a long time, which is perhaps why this team gets scorched by the pass-happy offenses in the NFC North. Roby isn't a big cornerback, but he has plenty of speed and is an instinctive ball hawk who plays bigger than his 5'11" frame.
12. St. Louis Rams—OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Adding Matthews to play on the right side opposite Jake Long would give the Rams two top-tier tackles to protect quarterback Sam Bradford. Considering the investment this team made in providing Bradford with weapons, this will be an easy decision for general manager Les Snead to make in 2014.
13. Miami Dolphins—DT Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
Every team that runs a 4-3 scheme on defense is looking for defensive tackles who can rush the passer. Tuitt is a dominant interior lineman who can play in any scheme, and he racked up 12 sacks for the Irish from his 3-4 defensive end spot in 2012.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers—DT Will Sutton, Arizona State
Much like Tuitt, Sutton is an interior lineman who is adept at making plays behind the line of scrimmage. Adding him to play next to Gerald McCoy will give the Bucs a phenomenal one-two punch inside.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers—TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
The Steelers must start preparing for life without Heath Miller, who is recovering from an ACL injury right now. The veteran tight end will turn 31 this October, and though he's been incredibly productive throughout his career he is starting to hit that age where his numbers will drop.
Seferian-Jenkins is a phenomenal athlete with prototypical size as a pass-catching tight end. At 6'6" and 266 pounds, he is plenty fast enough to beat most NFL linebackers and safeties.
The past two years at Washington, Seferian-Jenkins has caught 109 passes for 1,396 yards and 13 touchdowns. He's a bigger, more productive version of Tyler Eifert, and he'll be a dynamic player in the NFL.
A mark against him at this point is that this young man is currently suspended after he was charged with a DUI recently. If he can straighten up and fly right, Seferian-Jenkins has a bright future ahead of him.
16. Carolina Panthers—WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
A highly productive player last year for the Commodores, Matthews wisely decided to stay in school for the 2013 season. If he can improve upon his 94-catch performance in 2012, Matthews will be a first-round prospect. Though he isn't a burner, Matthews understands how to exploit defenses and will be a productive player in the NFL.
17. Dallas Cowboys—OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
A starting left tackle for Alabama last year, Kouandjio was overshadowed by Fluker, Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack. Another dominant year from this young man, however, and we could be talking about another elite NFL-caliber offensive lineman from 'Bama as a high first-round pick.
Oh, and Dallas might be in the market for an offensive lineman...
18. Minnesota Vikings—QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Minnesota is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, but Christian Ponder isn't a franchise quarterback. One more year of frustration will prompt general manager Rick Spielman to finally pull the plug on the Ponder experiment.
Manziel, should he dominate the SEC like he did last year, will be an intriguing NFL prospect. He isn't a big guy, at 6'1" and 200 pounds, but a lack of size hasn't hurt guys like Russell Wilson and Drew Brees.
What Manziel brings to the table is an ability to beat teams with his arm and his legs. Adding him to the backfield with Adrian Peterson would be a phenomenal move by Spielman to give his offense some much-needed firepower.
19. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins)—CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
The NFC West is turning into a division loaded with offensive talent. Adding skilled cover men will be a high priority for every team in this division, and adding Ekpre-Olomo to play with Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan would give St. Louis a formidable trio at the cornerback position.
20. Chicago Bears—OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA
As the Bears' linebacking corps continues to age, general manager Phil Emery must reload. Barr is a player who might be better suited to play in a 3-4 defense, but he could also become a Von Miller-type player for the Bears as a 4-3 outside linebacker.
21. Indianapolis Colts—OLB Kyle Van Noy, BYU
Van Noy is a skilled outside linebacker who has a knack for getting to quarterbacks. He's more pro-ready than his teammate from a year ago, Ezekiel Ansah, but isn't as explosive. Production can't be discounted, however, and the Colts could use another big-time pass-rusher on the edge.
22. New Orleans Saints—CB Marcus Roberson, Florida
A player who isn't as well-known as some of the other cornerbacks in college right now, Roberson will emerge as a major playmaker for the Gators in 2013. He has the size/speed/length teams look for these days, and would be a great pickup for the Saints.
23. Baltimore Ravens—WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
Losing Anquan Boldin will affect the Ravens perhaps more than general manager Ozzie Newsome cares to admit. Joe Flacco needs big targets who can go up and grab balls at their highest point, and Coleman's outstanding 6'6" frame, combined with his athleticism and speed make him an ideal fit with Baltimore.
24. New York Giants—WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Evans emerged as a true superstar for the Aggies last year. The 6'5" receiver hauled in 82 passes for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns, and if he and quarterback Manziel can continue to develop together he will post even bigger totals this year.
25. Green Bay Packers—S Ed Reynolds, Stanford
After Ted Thompson failed to pick up a safety in this year's draft, he'll finally land his man in 2014. Reynolds led the FBS last year with 301 interception return yards and three returns for touchdowns. He's a ball-hawking safety with excellent instincts and a real mind for the game.
26. Cincinnati Bengals—WR DeVante Parker, Louisville
If Bridgewater has another huge season for Louisville, chances are his top receiver will, too. Parker caught just 40 passes last year but hauled in 10 touchdowns. Adding him to play opposite A.J. Green would give the Bengals two excellent outside receivers.
27. Seattle Seahawks—TE Colt Lyerla, Oregon
Unfortunately, at this time Lyerla is better known for his poor judgement after suggesting the Sandy Hook tragedy was a government conspiracy on his Twitter account earlier this year. That said, by the time the 2014 NFL draft rolls around, this young man will mentioned for different reasons. He's a perfect player for Seattle's offense and will quickly turn into one of Russell Wilson's favorite targets.
28. New England Patriots—CB Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
Purifoy is a man-to-man specialist who will give the Patriots a huge boost in the secondary. Not only that, but Purifoy is going to be a two-way athlete for the Gators this year and could be the team's top receiver. Bill Belichick loves players that can play both ways, making this a natural fit.
29. Houston Texans—LB Christian Jones, Florida State
Jones is a smart, instinctive linebacker who is adept at making plays in the backfield and recognizing offensive plays before they happen. He'll be a perfect fit in the middle of Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense.
30. Atlanta Falcons—OT David Yankey, Stanford
The Falcons lost tackle Will Svitek to the Patriots in free agency, and this team will likely be looking to upgrade its offensive line in 2014. Yankey is a former guard who moved outside to tackle last year, and his ability to play multiple positions will likely only help his draft stock.
31. Denver Broncos—S Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, Alabama
"Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix emerged last year as a phenomenal safety for Alabama (color me shocked that Nick Saban found another dynamic defensive back). He's a strong defender deep in zone and has the physicality to play up near the line of scrimmage who will contend for a starting role as a rookie for the Broncos.
32. San Francisco 49ers—DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
Jernigan will emerge as a star on Florida State's defensive line in 2013 now that Bjoern Werner, Tank Carradine and Brandon Jenkins are all gone. This 6'2", 298-pound lineman will be a perfect fit for the 49ers' one-gap 3-4 defense, and adding him to play next to Carradine in the years to come will give San Francisco the ability to continue dominating the line of scrimmage.
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