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2014 NFL Mock Draft: Raiders need a tackle after early free agency

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

Theoretically the NFL Draft shouldn't be affected by free agency. In a perfect NFL economy, teams could go into the draft and select the best player on their board with each pick, completely independent of what their roster needs are.

But the NFL economy is far from perfect, especially up top, where teams have more holes than the successful clubs that are picking later in the first round.

Example: the Raiders.

They've got holes all over the place, and any number of players in this draft would fit for Oakland. On the heels of their debacle of an attempt to sign Rodger Saffold to a $42.5 million deal -- voided because Saffold failed a physical, even though he would re-sign with Rams within hours -- Oakland's got a massive hole at left tackle.

It's entirely possible they fill that hole with Donald Penn, recently released by the Buccaneers. But, lucky for them, if Penn decides that the grass is greener elsewhere, they've got options to fill that spot.

There's no one yet worth protecting but you gotta start somewhere. So let's start by giving the Raiders a franchise left tackle in this draft.

There's plenty left to unfold between now and the actual draft. Free agency is a critical reminder of how need and value fluctuate wildly at this time of year.

1. Houston Texans -- Blake Bortles, QB, UCF -- I want to go in a different direction and I can't help myself. It's a fit that works and Bortles is a Bill O'Brien type of guy, even if Bill O'Brien doesn't know what that constitutes exactly.

2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington Redskins) -- Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson -- The Rams haven't done anything in free agency to change their need for a No. 1 wideout. They need offensive line help too, but a lineman can fall to 13. Watkins can't and won't. Plus, bringing Rodger Saffold back into the fold gives them more reason to take a wideout.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina -- Top three picks stay the same, with the second and third selections being the best two players in the draft. Value meets need for the Jaguars here.

4. Cleveland Browns -- Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M -- They might LIKE Watkins to fall here but I don't think it happens. Instead I just keep giving them Manziel. It feels unfair to Johnny Football but he'd rejuvenate this franchise, especially if they can add another weapon.

5. Oakland Raiders -- Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M -- The disastrous, attempted Rodger Saffold signing resulted in a failed physical and the Raiders sitting on a line that features Austin Howard at right tackle and a big gaping hole on the other side. Maybe it works out for them and they land Matthews as a result.

6. Atlanta Falcons -- Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo -- All of the free-agent signings by the Falcons in Day 1 point to Mike Nolan shifting to a 3-4 defense, which means suddenly Mack is a perfect signing here. An explosive pass rusher, he'd slot on the outside for them immediately and help terrorize quarterbacks.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn -- Tampa's been busy adding bodies on defense and made a line swap as well by dumping Donald Penn and grabbing Anthony Collins. They can still use help though. Whether it's Josh McCown or Mike Glennon, the Bucs are going to run the ball a lot with Doug Martin. Robinson is punishing in the run game and can improve that area immediately.

8. Minnesota Vikings -- Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville -- Yes, please, for Rick Speilman. He needs a quarterback of the future and would likely entertain moving down if one of the top three guys doesn't fall. But Bridgewater slipped down because of the circumstances in the draft and the Vikings can take advantage. A pro-ready rookie could do damage with that line, these weapons and Adrian Peterson running the ball.

9. Buffalo Bills -- Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan -- Buffalo went out in free agency and plugged some holes, but they've still got issues up front on the line. Adding Lewan means the flexibility to put him on the right side or move Cordy Glenn there. That results in better protection for EJ Manuel and bigger holes for C.J. Spiller.

10. Detroit Lions -- Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State -- The denizens of Detroit want a wide receiver in the first round (OH THE IRONY) but after dropping more than $6 million a year on Golden Tate in Day 2 of free agency, it makes a lot more sense to grab a cornerback. Gilbert's lightning fast and would immediately improve the secondary in Motown.

11. Tennessee Titans -- Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA -- With Ray Horton transitioning the defensive unit to a 3-4 scheme, it makes all the sense in the world to grab a top-5 athlete who fell to the Titans at 11. Barr's a quarterback-destroying pass rusher and with the top three offensive tackles off the board (Tennessee just realized David Stewart) he fits well here. There are concerns about his coverage ability but he can rush like crazy.

12. New York Giants -- Eric Ebron, TE, UNC -- Don't love this pick as a "fit" for what the Giants do in the draft, but it makes sense in terms of grabbing an impressive player who can improve the offense. They've beefed up the line in free agency and while Hakeem Nicks is likely to walk, Ebron's a multifaceted tight end who will take serve as a nice safety valve for Eli Manning while taking the pressure off Victor Cruz and Reuben Randle.

13. St. Louis Rams -- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State -- If they could grab one of the top three tackles maybe they go that direction, but after releasing Cortland Finnegan, the Rams have a need at cornerback. Jeff Fisher isn't shy on using high picks on defensive backs and Dennard can make an impact in this secondary.

14. Chicago Bears -- Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh -- I continue to love this fit, despite the fact that Donald's size is a knock. I don't think Phil Emery will care about that.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers -- C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama -- High-impact player at Alabama who could make a difference on defense from the get-go. The addition of Mike Mitchell likely rules the Steelers out of grabbing a safety here.

16. Dallas Cowboys -- Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State -- Dallas defensive line is a mess and they need to shore it up ASAP. Jernigan's a big, imposing body with athleticism who could make a difference for them.

17. Baltimore Ravens -- Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M -- Surprised that Evans fell this far, and I bet Ozzie Newsome is too. They simply need more help for Joe Flacco and that's true even if they manage to sneak out Steve Smith if/when he's released.

18. New York Jets -- Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU -- I'm not even sure this changes if the Jets end up landing Eric Decker in free agency (they were courting him on Wednesday night, his wife was pump-faking everyone on Twitter and he and Rex Ryan were out to dinner). They need playmakers on offense that badly.

19. Miami Dolphins -- Zach Martin, OT, Notre Dame -- Despite signing Branden Albert from the Chiefs, Miami still needs depth on their offensive line. Martin's the last in the group of elite lineman left on the board.

20. Arizona Cardinals -- Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri — The Cardinals did a very nice job upgrading their offensive line in free agency with the addition of Jared Veldheer, but they could still use more bodies on the defensive end. Ealy's the underrated star of the Missouri defense and a potential NFL stud.

21. Green Bay Packers -- Ha Ha Clinton Dix, S, Alabama — The Packers signed Sam Shields to a big contract in free agency but could still use some talent on the back end of their secondary. Mr. Dix is very much the sort of talent that can help.

22. Philadelphia Eagles -- RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota — Lot of different directions the Eagles could go, but how about we let them load up on a big body in the middle? Hageman's a massive man who can plug some space and be versatile enough to fit what Chip Kelly wants to do on defense.

23. Kansas City Chiefs -- Marqise Lee, WR, USC — The Chiefs need a receiver who can step in and make an impact immediately and Lee's smart route running and impressive hands should help Alex Smith.

24. Cincinnati Bengals -- Dee Ford, DE, Auburn — With Michael Johnson gone to Tampa Bay, the Bengals need someone else to rush the passer. Plug Ford opposite Carlos Dunlap — with a healthy Geno Atkins in the middle — and the Bengals will keep terrorizing opposing quarterbacks.

25. San Diego Chargers -- Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech — The Chargers have to improve their secondary and grabbing Fuller does just that for them.

26. Cleveland Browns (from Indianapolis Colts) -- Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State — Maybe getting a big target to go opposite Josh Gordon would be ideal, but pairing Cooks with Gordon and Jordan Cameron will give Manziel (!) a ton of impressive targets to work with.

27. New Orleans Saints -- Jason Verett, CB, TCU — This secondary is shaping into a really impressive unit. Who would've thought that the Saints would have a good secondary?

28. Carolina Panthers -- Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama — Everyone wants a wideout here but Kouandjio's knee is apparently checking out and the Panthers need offensive linemen badly. Trust in Dave Gettleman. He'll find wideouts that can produce.

29. New England Patriots -- Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame — Not really sure how he fell this far, but with Vince Wilfork wanting his release, Nix makes sense as a big man who can fill the middle.

30. San Francisco 49ers -- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, FSU — Just feel like they want to keep trying to find a wideout who can stretch the field. Benjamin can do that vertically … in both directions.

31. Denver Broncos -- Xavier Su'a Filo, OG, UCLA — With Zane Beadles gone to Jacksonville, the Broncos could use another lineman to plug in front of Peyton Manning. Manning makes his guys better and veterans will be fine, but depth was an issue later in the year for them in 2013.

32. Seattle Seahawks -- Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech — I'm sticking with this for now but I'm not sure I'm convinced of it. The Seahawks lost Golden Tate in free agency and need another field-stretching player on the offensive end. You can coach up his blocking.

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