2015 NFL DRAFT

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Derek Carr cracks the Top 10

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

It is perhaps unfortunate that the NFL elected to push back their annual draft two weeks later this year, given the extraordinary talent of the 2014 class. With more time, scouts could fall into the trap of paralysis by over-analysis.

Fans (and owners) expect immediate results. Drafting for anything further in the future than today is a strategy that can get a coach and general manager fired. As such, expect the first run in the 2014 draft to be on players who can impact the game immediately.

With veteran free agency and the roller-coaster of Pro Days still on tap, a lot will change between now and May 8. This, however, is my latest projection as to how the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft will unfold.

NFL Mock Draft - 3/4/2014
Round 1
1. Houston Texans

(2-14)
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: Quarterback is the logical starting point for the Texans but this class has unique depth at the position, allowing head coach Bill O'Brien to wait until the second or even third round. Clowney - who demonstrated the athleticism at the Combine to easily transition to a pass rushing linebacker in defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel's scheme -- would provide an immediate impact opposite superstar J.J. Watt, likely spurring a quick return to the playoffs for a club just one year removed from winning the AFC South with a 12-4 record.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)

(7-9)
Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: Owners of this lofty pick due to the Robert Griffin III trade, the Rams are in a terrific position to improve their team immediately or the future by trading yet again as a number of QB-needy clubs could offer a bounty to jump ahead of the Jaguars or for the right to select Clowney should the Texans pass up the draft's best player at No. 1 overall. Head coach Jeff Fisher has never selected an offensive lineman in the first round but Robinson isn't just another blocker. His ability to dominate at the point attack would give the Rams the pair of bookend tackles (with veteran Jake Long) to protect Sam Bradford and improve the consistency of their rushing attack.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars

(4-12)
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: The Jaguars may have the least talented roster in the NFL but the team played hard under head coach Gus Bradley and were a respectable 3-5 on the road. Improving at the game's most important position is critical to their continued success. As the most polished and pro-ready passer in the draft, Bridgewater gives the Jaguars their best chance at doing that immediately.
4. Cleveland Browns

(4-12)
Blake Bortles, QB, UCF: There has been plenty of speculation that it is Manziel or Bust for the Browns. Given the gusts and grass of FirstEnergy Field, a more logical pick might be Bortles, whose prototypical size and instincts would seem like the perfect fit. The former UCF star may currently lack Teddy Bridgewater's polish or Manziel's improvisational skill but possesses a higher upside than either and is a legitimate No. 1 overall candidate.
5. Oakland Raiders

(4-12)
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Like the Jaguars and Browns before them, the Raiders are desperate for help at quarterback and Manziel's improvisational skills make him a fascinating fit for an offense largely bereft of playmakers. Manziel's dual-threat capabilities could make him an intriguing fit in new offensive coordinator Greg Olson's offense and his larger-than-life-persona fits in well with the Silver and Black.
6. Atlanta Falcons

(4-12)
Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo: The Falcons desperately need help on the defensive side of the ball but considering the millions invested in their skill position players, adding talent to the offensive line is a critical need, as well. Mack, the all-time leader in FBS history with 16 forced fumbles and tied for the all-time lead with 75 career tackles for loss over his career. Among the cleaner prospects in the draft, Mack is a dark horse candidate for No. 1 overall with the Texans and would offer great value here.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(4-12)
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: Vincent Jackson has been every bit the playmaker the Bucs hoped for after luring him away from San Diego but for Mike Glennon to take the next step, reinforcements may be necessary. Watkins' fluidity and explosiveness makes him a potentially more effective receiver in the short to intermediate passing game new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford used as head coach at California.
8. Minnesota Vikings

(5-10-1)
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: Mike Zimmer's choice of Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator may signal the end of Christian Ponder's run as the Vikings' quarterback. While Ponder does not possess the strong arm Turner has preferred in his vertical passing attack, Carr certainly does. The Fresno State star distanced himself from the other senior quarterbacks in this draft class with a strong performance in Mobile but some question his poise in a muddied pocket after starring in a shotgun-heavy attack. If not selected by one of the QB-needy teams in the top eight, Carr (and the other three top-ranked passers) could tumble as teams take advantage of this year's extraordinary talent at other positions.
9. Buffalo Bills

(6-10)
Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: In head coach Doug Marrone's first season at the helm, he showed off his preference for a ball-control attack, making controlling the line of scrimmage paramount to success. With three of his four seasons as a starter coming at right tackle, Matthews could step into a position of concern for the Bills and provide an immediate impact. Powerful, technically sound and capable of starring at virtually any position along the offensive line, he's as pro-ready as it gets and a steal if available at this point.
10. Detroit Lions

(7-9)
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State: The Lions boast scary talent along the defense line but the secondary remains a feast or famine unit needing leadership and consistency. Dennard's length, physicality and fluidity could help an overmatched secondary against the NFC North's explosive passing attacks.
11. Tennessee Titans

(7-9)
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA: The Titans tied for 21st in the NFL with 36 sacks recorded in 2013 with defensive tackle Jurell Casey chipping in a disproportionate 10.5. As such, general manager Ruston Webster might be willing to ignore other positions of concern (like right tackle) with a potentially dominant edge rusher like the 6-foot-5, 255 pound Barr falling into his lap.
12. NY Giants

(7-9)
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan: Protecting Eli Manning should be priority No. 1 in New York and given the way the Giants' offensive line has played this season it wouldn't be surprising if general manager Jerry Reese invested multiple picks in reinforcements. A four-year starter with good length, strength and nastiness in his play, Lewan would be a good start.
13. St. Louis Rams

(7-9)
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: The Rams have invested heavily in receivers in recent drafts and therefore may elect to give their current group more time. Given the size and physicality of the cornerbacks in the NFC West, however, the 6-5, 233-pounder Evans has to be intriguing. The long-strider has often been compared to Tampa's star Vincent Jackson but Evans is much more aggressive, a characteristic head coach Jeff Fisher has always prized in his players.
14. Chicago Bears

(8-8)
Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State: Given the Bears' toothless defense a season ago and the highly explosive offenses of the NFC North, Chicago is almost certain to select a defender with their first pick of the 2014 draft. Though he only emerged as a full-time starter at Florida State in 2013, Jernigan's combination of burst, agility and power makes him one of the draft's most intriguing talents.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers

(8-8)
Hasean Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama: With age and bloated contracts catching up to the Steelers, there could be sweeping changes in Pittsburgh, especially in the secondary. Fluid and instinctive, Clinton-Dix could provide an eraser in the deep middle to patch up holes quickly.
16. Dallas Cowboys

(8-8)
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: Tony Romo's fourth-quarter struggles pale in comparison to the full game bludgeoning experienced weekly by the Cowboys' defense. Expect there to be significant turnover in personnel over the offseason, an overhaul that could bring five or six new starters to the 4-3 alignment. More decorated than a wedding cake, Donald offers the buzz Jerry Jones always appreciates as well as the burst to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks from the middle.
17. Baltimore Ravens

(8-8)
Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California: Ozzie Newsome has made a career out of landing falling stars on draft day and in Lee he could find another one. Lee struggled with nagging leg injuries in 2013 but looked like a future top 10 pick in two previous dominating seasons in the Pac-12.
18. NY Jets

(8-8)
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: Rookie Geno Smith certainly took his lumps as a rookie but considering the weapons surrounding him, his struggles aren't surprising and he appears likely to return as the Jets' starter in 2014. The Jets have invested heavily in receivers with less than inspiring results. Adding a legitimate mismatch in the incredibly athletic Ebron makes more sense given the conservative offense head coach Rex Ryan prefers.
19. Miami Dolphins

(8-8)
Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame: It remains to be seen how the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito mess works itself out but for now it appears likely that the Dolphins will have to replace at least one member of the left side of their offensive line, if not both positions. Zack Martin, unrelated to Jonathan Martin by genetics or style of play, is a coach's dream. While perhaps lacking the body type scouts prefer at tackle, Martin slides well laterally and controls opponents with fierce hand usage.
20. Arizona Cardinals

(10-6)
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri: John Abraham led the Cardinals with 11.5 sacks in 2014 but next season will be his 15th in the NFL. Ealy starred at defensive end for the Tigers and certainly will be viewed as a quality defensive end from teams operating out of a 4-3 but he's a fluid athlete also capable of making the transition as a standup outside linebacker in the 3-4, making him an intriguing fit for the Cardinals.
21. Green Bay Packers

(8-7-1)
Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State: For the second consecutive season the Packers were knocked out of the playoffs by Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers and therefore improvements to the back end of this defense remains a top priority. Shazier, who possesses this draft's most compelling combination of instincts and explosiveness, would make an immediate impact on this defense.
22. Philadelphia Eagles

(10-6)
Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville: Based on the strength of Chip Kelly's offense, the Eagles won the NFC East. The Eagles finished 30th in pass defense over the regular season, however, making it easy to imagine which unit they'll be looking to improve for 2014. Physical, athletic and instinctive, Pryor could be a significant step in the right direction.
23. Kansas City Chiefs

(11-5)
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU: In guiding the Chiefs to an 11-5 record and a return to the playoffs, quarterback Alex Smith proved worthy of the trade to acquire him from the 49ers. He's a classic game-manager, however, who needs complementary playmakers around him to be at his best. Beckham is a dynamic athlete capable of providing the big plays necessary for the Chiefs to take the next step.
24. Cincinnati Bengals

(11-5)
Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA: Su'a-Filo earned the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12's most dominant offensive lineman despite playing much of the year out of position at left tackle due to injuries to teammates. This versatility and toughness could be especially valued by the Bengals, a notoriously thrifty club with two starters along their offensive line (tackle Anthony Collins, guard Mike Pollak) set to hit free agency and another (guard Clint Boling) coming off a late-season ACL tear.
25. San Diego Chargers

(9-7)
Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: The Chargers run to the playoffs was all the more impressive when one considers that the team ranked last in the AFC (and 29th overall) in pass defense. Gilbert relies too much on his athleticism but it is tough to blame him, given his remarkable fluidity and speed. He's a proven playmaker who led the Big 12 with seven interceptions in 2013 and returned six kickoffs for scores over his collegiate career.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis)

(4-12)
C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama: The release of steady veteran D'Qwell Jackson may have provided the Browns with flexibility under the cap but it also created a significant hole in the middle of their defenses. Possessing a similar brand of toughness, versatility and leadership qualities as Jackson, Mosley would be an ideal replacement.
27. New Orleans Saints

(11-5)
Dee Ford, DE, Auburn: Few know better than Saints' defensive coordinator Rob Ryan the value of pass rushers after a dominant Senior Bowl, creative defensive minds across the league are imagining how the 6-foot-2, 243 pounder could wreak havoc off the edge. A back injury from 2011 was red-flagged at the Combine but if Ford is medically cleared, it isn't a question if he'll make the first round but how high he'll go.
28. Carolina Panthers

(12-4)
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech: While the Panthers' front seven is fearsome but, as was demonstrated in the playoff loss to San Francisco, depth is a concern in Carolina's secondary. Fuller eased concerns about his straight-line speed at the Combine in 4.49 seconds and possesses the fluidity, awareness and grit necessary for success against the pass or run.
29. New England Patriots

(12-4)
Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame: The season-ending Achilles tear to nose guard Vince Wilfork made the middle of the Patriots' defense a sieve and with an $11.6 million cap hit next year, reinforcements up the middle are needed. If available here, Nix would be an ideal match.
30. San Francisco 49ers

(12-4)
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: General manager Trent Baalke is expected to make re-signing veteran Anquan Boldin a priority but adding a playmaker to play in the slot could make San Francisco's offense less predictable. Cooks is an extraordinary athlete with the agility and speed to help immediately on offense and special teams.
31. Denver Broncos

(13-3)
Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame: Since John Fox took over with the Broncos, Denver has built their defensive line with the selections of Von Miller, Derek Wolfe and Sylvester Williams as well as the addition of defensive tackle Terrance Knighton in free agency but don't expect that to keep the team from gambling on a player with Tuitt's length and upside should the gifted defender fall into their lap at this point.
32. Seattle Seahawks

(13-3)
RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota: The Seahawks looked unstoppable in Super Bowl XLVIII but that won't keep head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider from continuing to build for the future. Defensive tackles Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams (IR) provided next to nothing as rookies and the Seahawks cut starting five-technique Red Bryant due to his bloated eight million dollar cap hit in 2014. Hageman offers similar length as Bryant and much better athleticism but can be maddeningly inconsistent.
 
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