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2015 NFL DRAFT

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Pass rushers may fly off board late in Round 1

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

Dee Ford could end as up part of a late first-round run on pass rushers. (USATSI)
Dee Ford could end as up part of a late first-round run on pass rushers. (USATSI)

More NFL offseason: Mock Drafts | Prospect Rankings | Pro Days | Top free agents

Given how successfully the Seattle Seahawks used a variety of pass rushers to sweep through the NFL in 2013, expect the rest of the league to strive to build their own creative mismatches at the line of scrimmage.

South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney is clearly the best of the bunch. The 6-5, 266-pounder would rank among the elite prospects in any era. The 2014 draft class, however, is short on prototypical-build defensive linemen but boasts several potential impact rushers like Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald, Missouri's Kony Ealy, Auburn's Dee Ford and Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence.

While the current bottom-feeders of the NFL focus on building teams in the traditional sense, look for a run on so-called 'tweener pass rushers -- specialists whose ability to force quarterbacks off their spot ??? to be all the rage among the playoff contending teams picking later.

NFL Mock Draft - 4/8/2014
Round 1
1. Houston Texans

(2-14)
Blake Bortles, QB, UCF: The best players in the 2014 draft play other positions but every indication is that the Texans are set on taking a quarterback with the first pick. Trading away Matt Schaub and signing veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is respected for his willingness to mentor young quarterbacks, are the latest indications of the Texans' plans. Bortles wasn't perfect at his Pro Day but he was improved from his Combine throwing session, which optimists will take as a sign that he's only scratching the surface of his ability. Bortles' perceived upside and fit O'Brien's offense make the UCF product the logical fit for Houston.
2. Atlanta Falcons (from St. Louis)

(4-12)
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: If Clowney is available to the Rams, I would expect the team to have plenty of suitors looking to move up to secure his services. The most comfortable deal to complete for GM Les Snead may be with his former boss, Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff, who may view Clowney as the dynamic edge rusher defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is looking for to make the Falcons' defense as frightening as its offense.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars

(4-12)
Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo: The Jaguars have enough ammunition to consider trading up a spot for Clowney and might be fortunate enough that he lands in their laps, in which case head coach Gus Bradley may be cartwheeling down the hallways at team headquarters. Mack, big and athletic enough to handle the LEO and strong-side linebacker duties in Bradley's 4-3 scheme, would be a terrific consolation prize.
4. Cleveland Browns

(4-12)
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Veteran Brian Hoyer is a serviceable quarterback but he, like virtually every other quarterback the Browns have trotted out since Bernie Kosar, lacks the star power to turn around this rudderless franchise. Do I have questions about Manziel's ability to hold up in the ultra-physical AFC North, especially at gusty and grassy FirstEnergy Stadium? Sure, but waiting to see which quarterback may fall to No. 26 (or lower) could mean more of the same for a long-suffering fan base.
5. Oakland Raiders

(4-12)
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: The addition of veteran Matt Schaub and Maurice Jones-Drew in recent weeks is an indication that Raiders' general manager Reggie McKenzie is feeling the pressure to win now. Watkins' vacuum-like hands and first-step acceleration make him a big play waiting to happen. Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr could also be in play here should two passers come off the board in the first four picks.
6. St. Louis Rams (from Atlanta)

(7-9)
Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: To compete in the ultra-physical NFC West division, priority No. 1 for the Rams must be to get tougher at the line of scrimmage. Trading down four spots with the Falcons still puts the team in position to nab one of the star tackles, in this case the ultra-reliable and versatile Matthews, whom Jeff Fisher may value over Auburn's Greg Robinson simply due to the comfort of coaching his father (Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews) back in Tennessee.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(4-12)
Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: No one attacked free agency like Tampa, which gives head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht plenty of options with this pick. Wide receiver is probably the most likely scenario given the jettisoning of Mike Williams and a quarterback or pass rusher are also possibilities. Landing a blue-chip talent like Robinson this late is precisely why the news Bucs' brains-trust have worked so hard thus far this offseason.
8. Minnesota Vikings

(5-10-1)
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: Mike Zimmer's choice of Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator is an indication that he is looking for quarterback with the big arm to keep safeties from crowding the line of scrimmage. The quarterbacks already on the roster do not possess this type of ability, nor does Louisville's Bridgewater. Vikings' general manager Rick Spielman and Turner were among those who took in Carr's very impressive Pro Day workout.
9. Buffalo Bills

(6-10)
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: The addition of veteran wideout Mike Williams lessens the need for playmaking pass-catchers but doesn't eliminate it. The 6-4, 250-pound Ebron possesses eye-popping speed and agility, which could aid young E.J. Manuel's development.
10. Detroit Lions

(7-9)
Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin inherits a unit that was terrible a year ago in creating turnovers. Safety Louis Delmas led the team with three interceptions and he's no longer on the roster. Veteran Chris Houston was the only cornerback on the team to intercept a pass. Gilbert is a proven playmaker who led the Big 12 with seven interceptions in 2013 and returned six kickoffs for scores over his collegiate career.
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 of them. With the Titans expected to transition to a 3-4 defense under Ray Horton, Casey's numbers are likely to fall, creating a need for more pass rushers. Only two years removed from playing on offense, Barr lacks the polish to rank as a top 10 pick for everyone but his tremendous blend of size (6-5, 255), speed (4.44) and flexibility made him a star rush linebacker in UCLA's 3-4 scheme.
12. NY Giants

(7-9)
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: To get back into Super Bowl contention the Giants must protect Eli Manning, whether that come in the form of additional blockers or pass-catchers. The 6-5, 231-pound Evans plays with the physicality and speed to feast on the relatively short corners of the NFC East division and is an excellent value at this point in the draft.
13. St. Louis Rams

(7-9)
Hasean Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama: The additional T.J. McDonald a year ago could pay real dividends if the Rams were able to complement him with a more fluid centerfielder to operate at free safety. Clinton-Dix boasts the field-speed, agility and ball-skills to star in this role.
14. Chicago Bears

(8-8)
Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville: Given the additions of defensive linemen Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young via agency, the Bears are likely to focus on the back seven in the draft. Pryor's instincts and physicality would make him a welcomed addition to a beleaguered deep patrol.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers

(8-8)
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State: The once-proud Pittsburgh defense has fallen off in recent years and reinforcements are needed at all three levels. Given his polish, aggression and schematic fit, Dennard would make a lot of sense.
16. Dallas Cowboys

(8-8)
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: The signing of defensive tackle Henry Melton helps fill the gaping hole in the middle of Dallas' defensive line but the Cowboys may want insurance that his surgically-repaired knee will hold up. Donald is a terrific fit in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's scheme and comes with the full trophy closet that Jerry Jones appreciates, as well.
17. Baltimore Ravens

(8-8)
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan: General manager Ozzie Newsome is a master on draft day in large part because he sticks to the Best Player Available strategy. Lewan is a top 10 talent, whose propensity for over-aggression on and off the field could result in a bit of a slide.
18. NY Jets

(8-8)
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU: 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. Beckham is an extraordinary athlete with the agility and speed to complement newly signed possession receiver Eric Decker.
19. Miami Dolphins

(8-8)
Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame: With Branden Albert signed to take over at left tackle, the Dolphins can instead shift their draft-day focus towards boosting the play inside at guard. 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 (where he started 50 of his 52 career games for the Irish), 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)
Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame: The aggressive and somewhat surprising addition of Julius Peppers certainly diversifies Green Bay's pass rush but further reinforcements may be needed on the interior, where the team appears ready to move on from veterans Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett. Nix is built similarly to holdover B.J. Raji, who was brought back on a one-year deal but plays with a more consistent motor.
22. Philadelphia Eagles

(10-6)
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State: Chip Kelly is, of course, most known for offense but during his tenure at Oregon, his Ducks featured terrific cornerback play, as well. The Eagles took a significant step in improving upon their 30th ranked pass defense by landing former New Orleans Saints' safety Malcolm Jenkins but more help is needed. Roby struggles a bit with consistency but the tools are there to warrant top 20 consideration.
23. Kansas City Chiefs

(11-5)
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: The Chiefs may have shown their hand by expressing interest in Emmanuel Sanders and, to a lesser-extent, DeSean Jackson. Fortunately, the trio of Odell Beckham, Cooks and Southern Cal's Marqise Lee offer a similar skill-set as a dynamic slot receiver and returner. Cooks, the reigning Biletnikoff winner as the nation's top receiver, might be an especially good fit given his reliable routes and soft hands.
24. Cincinnati Bengals

(11-5)
Dee Ford, DE, Auburn: The Bengals' re-signing of Vincent Rey off-sets the release of James Harrison but Cincinnati could still be on the look-out for versatile linebackers equally capable of attacking quarterbacks or dropping back into coverage. Should Ford get a clean bill of health, the Senior Bowl MVP would make for an interesting fit for a club needing reinforcements at pass rusher with Michael Johnson bolting in free agency and star Geno Atkins recovering from knee surgery.
25. San Diego Chargers

(9-7)
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech: Even with the addition of former Cincinnati Bengal Brandon Ghee, the Chargers' secondary is littered with question marks, especially at cornerback. Fuller may lack the size and flashy athleticism of some of his peers but he's an instinctive, physical player who would fit in well in defensive coordinator John Pagano's scheme.
26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis)

(4-12)
Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State: General manager Ray Farmer may swing for the fences with one of his first round picks but expect the other to be a safer selection. Shazier's instincts and athleticism make him as safe as any linebacker in the draft and his regional appeal would make him a popular pick with the fan-base, as well.
27. New Orleans Saints

(11-5)
C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama: Mosley's awareness and reliable open -field tackling skills make him an easy projection to the NFL but, like a lot of Alabama players, his checkered medical history could lead to a slight slip on draft day. Pairing Mosley with the Saints' already formidable duo of safeties of Kenny Vacarro and Jairus Byrd, however, would make New Orleans as athletic and instinctive up the middle as any defense in the league.
28. Carolina Panthers

(12-4)
Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia: While receiver and cornerback are areas of concern, replacing longtime standout left tackle Jordan Gross is the Panthers' top priority. Moses is a gifted athlete whose game took off in 2013 after making the jump from right to left tackle, momentum he built upon with an impressive effort at the Senior Bowl.
29. New England Patriots

(12-4)
Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State: The Patriots received solid play a year from starting defensive ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich but adding a speedier option to complement them would be wise. Lawrence's burst and versatility is likely to appeal to Bill Belichick.
30. San Francisco 49ers

(12-4)
Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California: Considered by some to be a top-10 lock after a breathtaking sophomore season that earned him the Biletnikoff Award, Lee instead struggled with injury and inconsistency in 2013. For a club with two dependable possession receivers in Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin but lacking a traditional playmaker at the position, Lee could prove a steal.
31. Denver Broncos

(13-3)
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU: The Broncos paid top dollar for Aqib Talib but with the talented cornerback having never played a full season in his seven-year NFL career, Denver would be wise to add fortification to the position in the draft. Verrett may lack size but what the 5-09, 189-pound Verrett lacks in bulk, he more than makes up with grit and athleticism.
32. Seattle Seahawks

(13-3)
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State: Though free agency has tapped some of their depth, the Seahawks still boast the league's most talented roster which will once again put Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider in the enviable position of selecting the best player available. The Seahawks look for unique traits and could see the 6-5, 240-pound Benjamin's height, gliding speed and strong hands as an ideal replacement for the injury-prone Sidney Rice.
Round 2
1. Houston Texans

(2-14)
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama: Given the investment at quarterback, fortifying the offensive line must be a priority.
2. Washington Redskins

(3-13)
Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA: An undersized offensive line was pushed around too often a year ago. The versatile Su'a-Filo is powerful, athletic and pro-ready.
3. Cleveland Browns

(4-12)
Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State: With Josh Gordon one failed NFL policies test away from a year-long suspension and Greg Little as likely to drop a ball as catch it, the Browns can't afford to let big, talented receivers slip by.
4. Oakland Raiders

(4-12)
Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State: Take a quarterback? The Raiders rarely follow conventional thinking and may instead see the strong, athletic Jernigan as a potential replacement for free agent defection Lamarr Houston.
5. St. Louis Rams (from Atlanta)

(7-9)
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: With the second pick received from the Falcons -- in a trade projected for this mock draft involving the No. 2 overall pick -- the wait ends for Bridgewater, whose slight frame and case of glove-less jitters during his Pro Day appears to have his stock sliding. Over the past five seasons (college and pro) Rams' starting quarterback Sam Bradford has started just 52 of 77 career games. Adding a quality insurance plan could be critical to the Rams improving in Jeff Fisher's third season.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(4-12)
RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota: Hageman's rare combination of size and athletic ability could be valued by Lovie Smith and seen as insurance if underachieving defensive linemen DaQuan Bowers and Akeem Spence don't step up their production.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars

(4-12)
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois: If the Jaguars don't take a quarterback in the first round, they could rely upon their Senior Bowl experience, which included coaching Garopollo.
8. Minnesota Vikings

(5-10-1)
Kyle Van Noy, OLB, Brigham Young: Pairing Van Noy with Chad Greenway would give the Vikings two versatile and instinctive linebackers on the perimeter.
9. Buffalo Bills

(6-10)
Jimmie Ward, SS, Northern Illinois: Replacing Jairus Byrd must be a priority given that the road to the AFC East title requires slowing down Tom Brady and the Patriots' passing attack.
10. Tennessee Titans

(7-9)
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn: Jettisoning Chris Johnson will look like less of a gamble once the Titans take their pick of the running back class here.
11. NY Giants

(7-9)
Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington: Tom Coughlin will appreciate Sankey's no-nonsense approach and three-down reliability.
12. St. Louis Rams

(7-9)
Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State: The run on backs continues with Jeff Fisher getting the draft's most physical back to complete St. Louis' refurbished offense.
13. Detroit Lions

(7-9)
Dominique Easley, DT, Florida: GM Martin Mayhew has publicly stated he expects more out of Nick Fairley. Bringing in a talented pass rusher to challenge him for playing time might finally get the message across.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers

(8-8)
Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson: The Steelers have reportedly promised Ben Roethlisberger some big receivers. The 6-4, 211-pound Bryant offers Plaxico Burress-like upside.
15. Dallas Cowboys

(8-8)
Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State: Crichton may lack the elite athleticism of some of the top pass rushers in this class, but his hands and motor never quit.
16. Baltimore Ravens

(8-8)
Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame: Big and athletic, Tuitt would provide a quality replacement for defensive end Arthur Jones, who was lost in free agency.
17. NY Jets

(8-8)
Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech: The Jets rely on their defensive line to supply their pass rush but could see this former Yellow Jacket as a fit as a traditional 3-4 edge rusher.
18. Miami Dolphins

(8-8)
Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State: Whether it be at corner or as an upgrade at safety, Joyner is just too instinctive and athletic to ignore.
19. Chicago Bears

(8-8)
Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida: Given their focus on the defensive line in free agency, adding youth and grit to the Chicago secondary could extend into Round Two for the Bears.
20. Arizona Cardinals

(10-6)
Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU: Bruce Arians may love Carson Palmer but adding a young, strong-armed quarterback for the future would be wise.
21. Green Bay Packers

(8-7-1)
Terrence Brooks, FS, Florida State: Pairing the instinctive and athletic Brooks with holdover Morgan Burnett could erase some holes in the Packers' secondary.
22. Philadelphia Eagles

(10-6)
Marcus Martin, C, Southern California: Whether at center or guard, Martin is earning top grades for scouts due to his toughness, physicality and athleticism. His upside and versatility could certainly appeal to franchise looking to get nastier at the line of scrimmage.
23. Cincinnati Bengals

(11-5)
JaWuan James, OT, Tennessee: The Bengals do a terrific job each year of filling holes and could see the underrated James as an ideal replacement for right tackle Anthony Collins, who left via free agency.
24. San Francisco 49ers

(12-4)
Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State: The 49ers gave Daniel Kilgore a three-year extension in the hopes that he can take over for veteran Jonathan Goodwin but should a talent like Richburg fall into their lap, he'd make too much sense not to consider.
25. San Diego Chargers

(9-7)
DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State: The Chargers boast two of the better young five-technique defensive ends in Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes and could see the 6-4, 322-pound Jones as a quality nose guard candidate.
26. New Orleans Saints

(11-5)
Joel Bitonio, OT, Nevada: Tough and surprisingly athletic, Bitonio could offer depth all over the offensive line for the Saints, including at left tackle where he starred for the Wolfpack.
27. Indianapolis Colts

(11-5)
Deone Bucannon, SS, Washington State: The Colts might see the rangy and physical Bucannon as a cheaper version of free agent defection Antoine Bethea.
28. Carolina Panthers

(12-4)
Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss: Due to the extraordinary depth at the position, the Panthers can afford to wait until Day Two to find receivers for Cam Newton.
29. San Francisco 49ers

(12-4)
Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford: Given Navarro Bowman's horrific injury, the 49ers may opt to reach slightly for Skov, a somewhat slow but highly physical inside linebacker who Jim Harbaugh knows well.
30. New England Patriots

(12-4)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington: Can you imagine the mismatches possible with a combination of Rob Gronkowski and Seferian-Jenkins? So can Tom Brady.
31. Denver Broncos

(13-3)
Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State: Replacing Eric Decker with a similarly reliable route-runner and hands-catcher like Adams shouldn't be this easy.
32. Seattle Seahawks

(13-3)
Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville: Pete Carroll is always looking for edge rushers and with Cliff Avril only signed for one more year, adding depth at the LEO position is critical.

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