2014 NFL mock draft: Version 5.0

2014 NFL mock draft: Version 5.0
January 2, 2014, 10:00 am
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Ladybug hitches ride on Bill O'Brien

(USA Today Sports Images)

1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina*

This is going to be a wild draft, and it all starts at the top with the Texans. Depending on who they take, it will have a ripple effect that will change the complexion of the entire process. When the Texans began their losing streak, I believed that addressing the quarterback position would be a quick fix. However, as they kept piling up the losses, we started to see that their limitations weren't so superficial.

Moving forward with a new coaching regime, you need to draft a sure-fire hit. Bringing a force like Clowney on board would help re-establish the Texans as a power at getting at opposing QB's. The potential duo of J.J. Watt and Clowney could be one of the most imposing tandems the league has ever seen. 

2. St. Louis Rams (f/ WSH): Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

I've had St. Louis taking Matthews for two months now. The Rams added Jake Long in the offseason, and he performed pretty well, but the other side of the offensive line is still a liability. Jeff Fisher had his team playing good football toward the end of the season. If they could add another top lineman to anchor the right side and get Sam Bradford back, healthy with a final season to prove himself. The Rams could be in prime position to challenge for the postseason. 

They could also look at adding a quarterback or Sammy Watkins, but Jake Matthews may be the safest pick in the draft. It wouldn't be crazy to see the Texans drafting him with the first overall pick.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

A lot like Houston, the Jaguars have issues well beyond quarterback. The Jaguars have been searching for a franchise signal-caller since the days of Mark Brunell but this year's class doesn't have any sure things at the position. Their defense on the other hand, simply needs playmakers. Barr is far and away the best linebacker in this draft class, and would instantly help one of the NFL's worst ranked defenses.

4. Cleveland Browns: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville*

Cleveland has two first round picks in this year's draft. They will likely take a quarterback with one of them. If Bridgewater falls to their spot early, I think it would be really hard for them to pass him up. Bridgewater has all the tools you look for in a QB. Some questions remain as he's only had to subpar competition to play but the key is that he's found ways to win. He's the highest touted quarterback in this class, and could look to start early in his career.

5. Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno St.

I've been bouncing around with the Raiders pick for weeks. In my defense, the Raiders have been one of the hardest teams to project in recent years. With a lot of needs on both sides of the football, they could go a lot of different ways. 

Derek, the younger brother of David, has been sky-rocketing up the charts with elite play in his senior season. Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles could also be options, but I think Carr would really suit their current team the best. He's versatile, works hard, possesses an accurate arm, and he can make all the throws.

6. Atlanta Falcons: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

Atlanta expected to be a Super Bowl contender this season. Their lack of success had been partially due to injuries, but the Falcons defense also fell flat. Mosley has been a leader for Alabama since his freshman season, he could help add some stability and a level of accountability to their group of linebackers.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson*

The verdict is still out on whether Mike Glennon is the QB of the future for the Bucs but if they want to find out for sure, giving him weapons will be vital. Tampa could also look into drafting one of the offensive tackles, but Watkins possesses elite ability. Alongside Vincent Jackson, they could be a very effective duo.

8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

Minnesota is in desperate need of some consistency at quarterback. Matt Cassel has performed admirably as placeholder but neither Ponder or Freeman will likely be on the team next season. Bortles has all the tools you look for in a franchise quarterback. His stock has been on the rise all season, and recently he's been targeted by a lot of draft experts as a fringe first rounder.

9. Buffalo Bills: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn**

Robinson's stock has been soaring this season alongside Auburn's return to prominence. He may elect to stay another season, and could be the top tackle off the board in 2015 but if he comes out, he'd be another addition to this elite class of offensive linemen. Adding protection for E.J. Manuel moving forward will be important for his growth.

10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma St.

Detroit's been looking to upgrade their secondary for a few seasons now, but it hasn't been a complete success. The addittion of Glover Quin hasn't been as successful as they'd hoped, and they relied heavily on Rashean Mathis and Chris Houston, both of which underperformed this season. Gilbert could potentially be the top corner in this class and has the ability to develop into a true shut-down corner.

11. Tennessee Titans: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame*

A real impact player inside, Nix is a space-eater with top level quickness for a big guy. The Titans could use a lot of different positions to try and infuse new energy into their team. However, the staple for them has always been defense, and rushing the passer. Bringing someone like Nix to the table could really help get their pass rush back to what it used to be, and as we all know, a strong pass rush can hide a lot of other weaknesses.

12. New York Giants: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

A strong year for offensive tackles, Lewan would've been a stand-out last season, but his decision to stay another year at Michigan should net him a top ten selection. The Giants need to buy Eli Manning more time to work, and while infusing youth into the defense would be a nice luxury. Enhancing the offensive line is a neccessity after this season.

13. St. Louis Rams: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon*

The Rams have had one of the more underrated defenses in the NFL this season. They have a ton of talent up front, but their secondary still has some glaring holes that opposing teams have been able to expose. Ekpre-Olomu is an impact play-maker at the corner position and has emerged as potentially the top defensive back in the draft.

14. Chicago Bears: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida St.*

On talent alone, Jernigan should be a top-10 pick. Unfortunately, defensive tackles have had a trend of falling later in drafts, as it's not the sexiest pick to make. Chicago needs to add more interior defenders, and Jernigan is a big guy that should plug up holes early in his career.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Darqueeze Dennard, CB, Michigan St.

Secondary is a real need for the Steelers. Keeping mostly the same unit together for a lot of years and without the infusion of youth and speed, they've become slow and vulnerable. Dennard is a complete corner, he can play in any scheme, and should be able to start quickly into his NFL career.

16. Dallas Cowboys: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

Has their been an area on this Cowboys team as disappointing as their secondary? Dallas has a lot invested in Morris Claiborne, and there's still hope he could tap into his potential moving forward. However, the safety position has been an achilles' heel for the squad all season. Clinton-Dix is the best safety in this draft. He's a ballhawk, and a leader among defensive backs.

17. Baltimore Ravens: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

Rebuilding isn't something the Ravens have had to do in a long time, but they've lost a lot of the defense over the past few seasons. Thankfully, the addition of Dumervil has worked thus far for the unit, but if they hope to contend moving forward, bringing youth to the table will be key. Khalil Mack might be the most complete defender in this draft. He can cover in space, tackle at the line, and possesses good athleticism. 

18. New York Jets: Marqise Lee, WR, USC*

Lee is a speedster with good hands, adding a few pounds could make him a potentially elite option. The New York Jets have been in transition for several seasons now. They've done well, adding several nice pieces on the defensive side, and taking Geno as their potential QB for the future. What they really lack is offensive weapons right now. 

19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama*

Kouandjio may have the most physical gifts of the offensive linemen in this class. The Dolphins need better bookends on their offensive line, and should be searching for a future anchor, especially after losing Jake Long last offseason.

20. Arizona Cardinals: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa*

The Cardinals in the second half of the season did a better job of protecting Carson Palmer but they still need a youth infusion on their offensive line. Scherff is big, consistent and has everything you look for in a franchise offensive tackle. 

21. Green Bay Packers: Vic Beasley, LB, Clemson*

Beasley has been a defensive end for Clemson, in the NFL his best position would likely be a pass-rushing OLB in a 3-4 defense. He has an special ability to infiltrate opposing offensive lines at will.

22. San Diego Chargers: Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford

San Diego has lost a lot of playmakers in their defense the past few seasons. A lot of scouts are in love with Murphy. A very intelligent player, with good intangibles that just seems to be involved in every defensive play at Stanford. 

23. Philadelphia Eagles: Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame*

Chip Kelly has implemented a 3-4 defense for the Eagles this season, but in doing so, also pieced a lot of players in positions they've never played before. While the experiment has mostly worked, beginning to add guys that really fit the system will be a big part of this offseason. Tuitt has drawn comparisons to a young Richard Seymour. Praise like that is hard to overlook, and another impact defender up front could set their defense up to take the next step towards elite.

24. Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina*

Ebron is a freak athlete and has been on the rise all season. His skill-set would create a lot more versatility in the Chiefs pass attack. He'd be the best tight end they've had since Tony Gonzalez. 

25. Cincinnati Bengals: Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor 

The Bengals' defense has been stellar, but opposing teams have found the holes on their offense. Disrupting Andy Dalton proving an effective strategy. If Cincinnati hopes to continue their offensive sucess, protecting Daulton by adding quality pass-blocker on the inside should be a big consideration. Richardson is the best interior lineman in this class and would fit their offense perfectly.

26. Cleveland Browns (f/ IND): Ra'Shede Hageman, DT Minnesota

The Browns, like the Rams, are another team with two first round picks in this draft. That luxury allows them the ability to draft a need with one pick, and a luxury with the other. Cleveland's defense has been one of the most improved in football this season, but they're still in need of more impact players.

27. New Orleans Saints: Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville

Marcus Smith is one of the more intriguing prospects in the draft. He emerged this past season as a true disruptive force on the defensive line. His best position in the NFL though, will likely be a pass-rushing linebacker. The Saints need help getting pressure on opposing offenses and Smith could help them out right away in his rookie season. 

28. New England Patriots: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

Talk about doing a lot with a little. Tom Brady led his Patriots to another successful season, but if you would've said last year that it'd be possible without Welker, Gronkowski and Hernandez, most would've called you crazy. The Pats will definitely look to give him a true consistent option in the offseason. Jordan Matthews has been one of the most consistent WR's in college over the past few seasons. He should be a hot commodity come draft day.

29. Carolina Panthers: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M**

Steve Smith gets older every season and the Panthers have still to find an heir apparent at receiver. LaFell has improved and is a solid number two, but adding a player like Evans could become a star as a possession receiver in the NFL. 

30. San Francisco 49ers: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State

San Francisco... always in position to go BPA. They have a great balance of veteran leadership and youth on their roster at a lot of positions. With Frank Gore's age, workload and age always increasing... adding an heir apparent, and someone to help shoulder some of the workload could be a smart move. Hyde has had a monster season at OSU and may be the only workhorse option at running back in this draft. 

31. Denver Broncos: Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida*

Denver's once vaunted secondary is old and have been injury-riddled. They need to address the cornerback position at some point soon, it's been the only true weakness on their team this season.

32. Seattle Seahawks: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech*

The Seahawks don't have too many needs. On defense, they're loaded all around, and have a ton of versatility. On offense, one area that they could look to improve on is consistency... particularly from their receiving options. Amaro has really been rocketing up the charts in the last few weeks. When all is said and done, there's an outside shot he's the first tight end drafted in May.

33. Houston Texans: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M**

With the Texans taking Clowney first overall, they wait a little later to find their quarterback for the future. Manziel's draft stock may be impossible to project at this point. On talent, he's a top-10 pick, I believe that Manziel may have the highest potential ceiling of all the quarterbacks in this class... but there's a lot that goes along with drafting Manziel. He comes with a lot of baggage that some franchises may shy away from, call it "Tebow-syndrome."

Most teams in need of a quarterback will also be touting brand new head coaches come draft day, and I don't see many newly appointed coaches looking to draft Johnny Football with the first pick of their new regime. Should he fall as far as the second round? Not in a fair world, but I don't think the Texans would complain much if he did.

*Non-Senior, **Redshirt Sophomore