The big board took another unexpected shift after week 12. Another new team will occupy the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft. Does the player selected change as well?
#1 – Houston Texans – Teddy Bridgewater – QB – Louisville
Their ninth-straight loss to the Jaguars has somehow put a Super Bowl favorite at the start of 2013 in line for the first overall. With the Case Keenum experiment over and Matt Schaub possibly done for good as a starter, the Houston Texans look to get their franchise quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater remains the best of his class despite a string of recent blah performances against unranked teams. His blend of size, athleticism, arm strength and intelligence will be welcomed under Gary Kubiak.
#2 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Marcus Mariota – QB – Oregon
It truly is admirable that in a season considered lost long ago the Jacksonville Jaguars continue to fight every week. Still, nothing has changed about their needs. Until they find a quarterback worth his salt they will have no prayer of getting back in the playoff picture. So they follow the Texans’ lead, scooping up Oregon star Marcus Mariota. Gus Bradley will recognize the skill set, having seen it out of Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. Mariota has the athleticism of a wide receiver along with the arm and accuracy of a the top quarterback he is. There are some experience questions, but with time and development those can be worked out.
#3 – Atlanta Falcons – Jadeveon Clowney – DE – South Carolina
Until the defense and offense get better up front the Atlanta Falcons have no prayer of getting back in the NFC South conversation. The area they really need help the most is defense, and Jadeveon Clowney is the best on the board. His amazing physical talent makes him almost unblockable when his motor is running hot as he can knife into the backfield to blow up a run or beat protection to nail the quarterback. On that fast turf in the Georgia Dome he would become an instant terror for every offense paying a visit.
#4 – Minnesota Vikings – Anthony Barr – OLB – UCLA
Another team that could easily take a quarterback, but in all honesty the real problem eating at the Minnesota Vikings has been their defense. They haven’t held a team to under 26 points all season and stand to lose Jared Allen in free agency next year. Bolstering the pass rush has to be a top priority. With Clowney off the board, they can’t afford to pass on UCLA star Anthony Barr. Though he is an outside linebacker, Barr has the strength and athleticism to fit in any defense. He is a havoc-maker around the line of scrimmage, able to force fumbles or collect sacks depending on what the offense tries to do. Minnesota will love having him.
#5 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – C.J. Mosley – OLB – Alabama
Mike Glennon has done a masterful job directing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of their horrific start to the season. Regardless of what happens to the coaching staff he looks like the starting quarterback heading into next year. So the 2014 NFL draft can be about any position for the Bucs. Linebacker is an area that could use some help and C.J. Mosley has the athleticism and versatility to play inside or outside. He tackles well, displays excellent play recognition, flies sideline to sideline and is also a huge benefit in coverage. Putting him next to Lavonte David could give the team a serious core to build around for the next ten years.
#6 – St. Louis Rams (from WSH) – Jake Matthews – OT – Texas A&M
Recommitting to the run is what has saved the St. Louis Rams from a serious slide in 2013 but if they want to take that next step in challenging Seattle and San Francisco they have to pass the ball better, and that starts with protection. Jake Matthews of Texas A&M is the best left tackle on the board in a class considered among the strongest in recent memory. He is big, strong, quick and has experience playing on the right side. The Rams could put him there across from Jake Long and really shore up their protection with the added bonus of being able to move him over when the time comes.
#7 – Oakland Raiders – Sammy Watkins – WR – Clemson
Is Matt McGloin the answer at quarterback for the Oakland Raiders? Time will tell. Until a decision is made on whether the team needs a new quarterback, they have other work to do on offense. They could easily go after a tackle but they need more playmakers at wide receiver. Sammy Watkins has good size coupled with explosive speed to get down the field quickly. His powerful lower body allows him to make catches in traffic and break tackles for longer gains. Whoever the quarterback is next year, they will be happy having a weapon like Watkins to throw to.
#8 – Cleveland Browns – Derek Carr – QB – Fresno State
Quarterback is now a clear cut need for the Cleveland Browns after another dud outing from Jason Campbell. There are several possibilities head coach Rob Chudzinski can consider but Derek Carr is the best choice of those available. In terms of size, arm strength and other quarterback traits he is the most gifted. Carr has put together an excellent season at FresnoState, showcasing his ability to sling the ball everywhere not just explosively but efficiently too. He is a master at the quick-hitting game but still possesses the arm strength to go downfield when it suits him. Deceptive mobility also allows him to make the occasional run for a first down. Cleveland should be happy with this pick.
#9 – New York Giants – Khalil Mack – OLB – Buffalo
Improving the defense is the best hope the New York Giants have of getting back into the championship race. Nothing needs attention more than the pass rush. Khalil Mack of Buffalo can help with that and so much more. He’s developed into a highly active pass rusher but maintains the speed and instincts to make plays against the run while also dropping back into passing lanes and picking off passes. There isn’t a thing on the field he can’t do. Such playmakers are hard to find on either side of the ball. Tom Coughlin will love having him in blue.
#10 – Buffalo Bills – Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix – FS – Alabama
This is a mostly a defensive pick by the Buffalo Bills. There is a strong possibility that two-time Pro Bowl free safety Jairus Byrd could leave in free agency next year, leaving an inconsistent secondary without its best player. So the Bills go for the quick fix. Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix is the best safety in the 2014 NFL draft and the only free safety of a first round caliber. He excels in coverage, able to read the quarterback and make strong breaks to the football when its in the air. Improving his strength in tackling is something Buffalo will need to focus on, but otherwise they’ve done the best they can to get over the pending loss of Byrd.