The first round ends with a few surprises in this latest 2014 NFL mock draft. Philadelphia fills a big need, the Saints and Lions fortify the back end and Minnesota pulls a surprise.
#22 – New York Jets – Eric Ebron – TE – North Carolina
Getting whatever they can out of Geno Smith is how the New York Jets will determine their future with him. That means giving him weapons. Though wide receiver is still a need, tight end is too and the best prospect of the class is still on the board. Eric Ebron is en vogue with the current trend of new age tight ends: a former basketball player with height, speed and leaping ability to pluck passes out of the air. He will create more mismatches for Smith to exploit and hopefully make life easier for him.
#23 – Philadelphia Eagles – Vic Beasley – DE – Clemson
Improving their pass defense has to be top priority for the Philadelphia Eagles. That will either come through the secondary or the pass rush. In this case they are very fortunate to see Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley still on the board. Projected as an outside linebacker at the next level, he has a knack for rushing the quarterback. Beasley explodes off the edge with speed to turn the corner but also can convert it to power when he turns inside against the tackle or guard. He doesn’t have much experience playing in an upright position, but his potential is worth that risk.
#24 – Detroit Lions – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu – CB – Oregon
Problems in coverage persist for the Detroit Lions despite their ongoing efforts to correct them. That doesn’t mean they should stop and try something new. The key to fixing a problem is to try until something works. So they go back to the well again, selecting standout Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Though he lacks size, his speed, athleticism and playmaking instincts are what puts him at the top of the corners list. He loves press coverage and can stick to any receiver. Detroit will need that in the NFC North.
#25 – Cincinnati Bengals – Ryan Shazier – OLB – Ohio State
Mike Zimmer loves to have athletic linebackers in his defense for the Cincinnati Bengals because they create so much versatility in pass coverage. Injuries have taken their toll for his unit this season, which could mean they go after some help. They do in this 2014 NFL mock draft by landing a potential steal in Ryan Shazier. The OhioState linebacker is a tackling machine, able to cover sideline to sideline with his rare speed but also the ability to turn up the field and make plays blitzing or dropping back to fill the passing lanes. Under the guidance of Zimmer he could become a stalwart alongside Vontaze Burfict.
#26 – Carolina Panthers – Jordan Matthews – WR – Vanderbilt
The defense is the best in football. Keeping it that way might be on the minds of the Carolina Panthers but in truth they have to start thinking about arming Cam Newton with more weapons. Steve Smith is reaching the end of his career and their secondary options aren’t much more than adequate. They need somebody reliable who can get open and consistently make the catch. Jordan Matthews out of Vanderbilt does that better than most. He isn’t a burner but has good speed and maximizes it with route running, a 6’3″ frame and terrific coordination and body control.
#27 – Cleveland Browns – David Yankey – OG – Stanford
Having gotten their quarterback earlier in the first round, the Cleveland Browns look to give him better protection and some help in the run game. David Yankey is having a terrific second half of the season in leading the Stanford offensive line. Despite a tough loss against USC, the Cardinal offensive line paved the way for 158 rushing yards from Tyler Gaffney which included two touchdowns. Yankey is a physical, intelligent man with the experience of playing both guard and tackle.
#28 – Minnesota Vikings (from NE) – Bryce Petty – QB – Baylor
One had to expect a team might jump into the first round late for a quarterback. The Minnesota Vikings fulfill that prediction when they make a deal with the New England Patriots for the 28th pick. Their selection is a slight surprise. With Zach Mettenberger and Tajh Boyd still on the board, they instead go after Baylor standout Bryce Petty. Somewhat overlooked because he plays in such a successful offensive scheme, experts have begun to appreciate how talented the junior really is. He has the body of a pro quarterback including the height, can move around and has no issues throwing the ball down field. Accuracy is also not a problem. The question is how quickly can he adapt to a more pro style offense?
#29 – New Orleans Saints – Bradley Roby – CB – Ohio State
Rob Ryan worked some incredible magic with the New Orleans Saints defense in 2013 but that doesn’t mean they should stop loading it up with more talent. An area that could use an added boost is cornerback, especially after the injury to Jabari Greer that looked beyond serious. Ryan loves types who can press in coverage so Bradley Roby out of OhioState makes a lot of sense. He excels at going man-to-man against a receiver and has the kind of speed that makes him never out of a play. Does need work on his instincts for the football but if those come around he has shutdown potential.
#30 – Kansas City Chiefs – Allen Robinson – WR – Penn State
Andy Reid could be tempted to take a quarterback here but he will understand the depth of the class should given him an opportunity to get one later on. So instead he decides to give his passing game a boost at receiver. Allen Robinson is a classic big receiver, able to use excellent leaping ability and hands to constantly take the ball away from defenders. He also has a very wide catch radius thanks to superb body control. He won’t beat anybody with speed, but if he nails down the rest of his game he won’t have to.
#31 – Denver Broncos – Trent Murphy – DE – Stanford
Losing Elvis Dumervil has really hampered the Denver Broncos defense this season. Von Miller returning has helped but they clearly still have issues rushing the passer. If they are to have one more run with Peyton Manning, then they have to ensure the area is upgraded as much as possible. So they scoop up Stanford star Trent Murphy. Though somewhat of a hybrid between defensive end and outside linebacker, he is a workhorse for the Cardinals, able to use his long frame and non-stop effort to make plays in the opponent’s backfield. He’s proven that over the past month, wrecking havoc against UCLA, OregonState and USC for a combined 6.5 sacks.
#32 – Seattle Seahawks – Brandon Scherff – OT – Iowa
Russell Wilson is tough and able to protect himself with mobility but sooner or later those hits will start to catch up with him unless the Seattle Seahawks improve his pass protection. Right tackle is probably their weakest link, so they go after a late riser in the 2014 NFL mock draft. Brandon Scherff is a big, strong tackle who is a force in the running game. His athleticism isn’t upper tier but he makes up for it with good technique that accents his strengths and hides his weaknesses. This makes him ideally built for the right side since he is still good enough to handle most pass rushers.