A lot of changes went on to the latest pecking order for this 2014 NFL mock draft. Which teams fill out the top ten and how does it impact the players that are taken?
#1 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Teddy Bridgewater – QB – Louisville
They got their first win out of the way but problems persist for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Offensively they remain as inept as ever and won’t begin to solve their problems until they find a quarterback who can execute at a high level. Teddy Bridgewater remains the best option in the 2014 class. He has all the physical tools and has embraced the mental side of the game like few others this year. There is no doubt he is closer to “franchise” quarterback status than anybody else.
#2 – Minnesota Vikings – Jadeveon Clowney – DE – South Carolina
The quarterback situation gets plenty of press with the Minnesota Vikings but there is no question their problems have been on defense all year. They are ranked 30th overall and have struggled all season with their pass rush. On top of that Jared Allen will be a free agent next year. Minnesota needs a boost in the worst way, which is why they cannot pass on Jadeveon Clowney. He is by far the best defensive end in his class and maybe the best in the last ten years. The potential is there to become a perennial Pro Bowler.
#3 – Houston Texans – Marcus Mariota – QB – Oregon
Andre Johnson vented his frustration after losing to the Oakland Raiders on Matt Schaub. In truth he was doing it at the entire quarterback position for the Houston Texans, which is a primary reason the team has struggled so mightily this year. Gary Kubiak has to know until the team gets a difference-maker at the position, they aren’t getting any further in the playoffs. So they take a chance and go for the upside with Marcus Mariota. Though still inexperienced his physical tools are broader than any other quarterback in the draft. He’s proved capable of passing from the pocket but can also tuck the ball and run.
#4 – Atlanta Falcons – Anthony Barr – OLB – UCLA
Injuries on offense have only masked the problem with the Atlanta Falcons, which is a bottom ranked defense that allows 21 points and 381 yards per game. Part of their problem is a ineffective pass rush, ranking 26th in the league. Until this get bolstered they can’t hope to compete again in the NFC South. So they go after the best pass rusher on the board, which is Anthony Barr from UCLA. Though not a perfect scheme fit as an outside linebacker there is no question he is a complete defensive player who can make plays against the run or get up the field to sack the quarterback.
#5 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – C.J. Mosley – OLB – Alabama
Mike Glennon seems to have a handle on the quarterback job and the offensive pieces around him to continue improve. So this presents a great opportunity for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to bolster an already talented defense with more help. C.J. Mosley is the best all-around linebacker expected to enter the 2014 NFL draft. He is fast, physical, instinctive and athletic enough to play inside or outside. Best of all he can rush the passer or drop back into coverage with equal effectiveness.
#6 – St. Louis Rams (from WSH) – Jake Matthews – OT – Texas A&M
It isn’t clear whether the St. Louis Rams will stay committed to Sam Bradford next season, but if they do then their top priority has to involve improving his protection. Jake Matthews of Texas A&M is not only the best offensive lineman overall, he is also the most versatile having played full seasons at both right and left tackle. Physically, he has the strength to dominate on the ground and the balance and flexibility to anchor in pass protection. The Rams could plug him in on whichever side he is needed most.
#7 – Buffalo Bills – Mike Evans – WR – Texas A&M
The first big surprise of the day. Mike Evans does not rate as the best wide receiver on most boards, but for the Buffalo Bills he is exactly what they need. E.J. Manuel has a number of quality speed targets like Stevie Johnson and Marquis Goodwin but what he could really use is a target with size. At 6’5″, Evans is the best big receiver in the country. He has dominated the competition at Texas A&M, flashing good separation skills and the elite ability to win jump balls on key downs or in the red zone. His addition gives Buffalo a target to challenge defenses inside the 20.
#8 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Taylor Lewan – OT – Michigan
All the trade talk about Ben Roethlisberger sounds like a player and a team venting their frustration at what appears to be a lost season. The Pittsburgh Steelers have to know he is their best chance at getting another Super Bowl until such a time as another quarterback can be found. With that in mind they look to improve his still struggling pass protection, specifically at left tackle. Taylor Lewan isn’t as athletically gifted as Matthews but he is just as physical when run blocking and very sound in his mechanics to the point where handling top tier pass rushers is an ability he has. After years of second tier options, the Steelers need somebody on that side who is reliable.
#9 – Cleveland Browns – Johnny Manziel – QB – Texas A&M
Somebody is going to take him in the first round, it’s just a question of who. Johnny Manziel is one of the best playmakers on the 2014 NFL mock draft board. His scrambling ability along with the instinct to know when to run or throw is one of things that has teams so torn about where he belongs in the first round. The deciding factors, provided he declares at the end of the season, will be his maturity and his ability to throw from the pocket with accuracy. Both those aspects have improved over the course of the season. The Cleveland Browns have two first round picks and one of the better offensive coaching staffs in the league. They are prepared more than any team to take on Manziel.
#10 – Baltimore Ravens – Sammy Watkins – WR – Clemson
Losing too many offensive weapons will go down as the main reason the Baltimore Ravens weren’t able to defend their title this season. Thankfully they have an outstanding GM in Ozzie Newsome who can fix such problems very quickly. In this case his board plays out favorably and the Ravens get arguably the best receiver in the 2014 class. Sammy Watkins is as close to the total package as it gets. He’s got a big enough body at 6’1″ with the strength to match while still retaining great speed and acceleration in his lower half that allows him to either get deep or catch a quick pass and turn it into a long gain.