Now that the 2013 NFL season is officially in the books with the Seattle Seahawks’ victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 48, it is time to turn out attention to next season, and more importantly the 2014 NFL Draft.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, coming off another 8-8 campaign, will have the No. 15 overall selection in the first round.
Who will they take?
It may be a surprise, but let’s take a look at my first 2014 NFL Mock Draft. The Houston Texans are on the clock.
1. Houston Texans
Player Name: Blake Bortles
Position, School: QB, Central Florida
The Texans need a franchise signal caller and in a draft that is top-heavy at the position it makes sense for new head coach Bill O’Brien to target his quarterback of the future. Rumors out of Houston have Bortles and Johnny Manziel at the top of the Texans list. Bortles makes the most sense, as he has the characteristics of what O’Brien looks for in a quarterback and Bortles could be the long-term answer for a team that already has a ton of talent at other positions.
2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington)
Player Name: Jake Matthews
Position, School: OT, Texas A&M
Jadeveon Clowney will be very tempting, but the Rams already have two excellent defensive ends and while a big receiver would also be nice for the Rams. However, Matthews fills a need. St. Louis invested money at left tackle last year by signing Jake Long, who played well before tearing his ACL. Long may not be ready for the start of 2014, but even if he is the Rams need help on the right side.
Matthews played right tackle for two seasons at Texas A&M while Luke Joeckel held down the blind side. It’s that versatility that makes this blue-chip prospect so intriguing as he could step in right away and play on either side. However I wouldn’t rule out a trade here as the Rams could gain a couple of extra picks by moving down and still gaining a good player that could help immediately.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
Player Name: Teddy Bridgewater
Position, School: QB, Louisville
Again, Clowney is very tempting, but the Jaguars need a quarterback and they can’t pass on Bridgewater here. The Louisville junior is my top-ranked player in the entire draft class. He’s poised in the pocket but shows the athleticism to pull the ball down and make plays with his feet. He is also very intelligent which a bonus is. He’s the most polished and NFL-ready quarterback of the bunch and while Clowney is still on the board, it will be tough for the Jags to pass on a guy like Bridgewater.
4. Cleveland Browns
Player Name: Johnny Manziel
Position, School: QB, Texas A&M
Speaking of teams that badly need a quarterback, the Browns have to get one here. Reports have come out that the Browns are in love with Manziel, and they fired their coach because Rob Chudzinski didn’t like the Texas A&M product very much. At the minimum, Manziel will at least add a jolt of excitement to a franchise that hasn’t had any excitement to speak of in years.
5. Oakland Raiders
Player Name: Sammy Watkins
Position, School: WR, Clemson
There really isn’t a quarterback worth drafting here unless the Raiders want to move up to No. 2 or reach on Derek Carr. Watkins would be a step in the right direction for an offense that’s lacked explosiveness since it made the Super Bowl 11 years ago. Oakland’s last 1,000-yard receiver was Randy Moss in 2005 and before that you have to go back to Jerry Rice in 2002. They will still have to target a quarterback, possibly early in the second round, but it will be hard to pass on a playmaker like Watkins in this spot.
6. Atlanta Falcons
Player Name: Jadeveon Clowney
Position, School: DE, South Carolina
It’s likely that the hype Clowney brings could see him go in the first five selections, but I like him here to Atlanta. The Falcons’ struggles at defensive end are well known and adding a player like Clowney that has the rare blend of speed, strength and potential rarely seen in a prospect will turn out to be a steal. It is not often that a Lawrence Taylor-type of prospect is on the board and Clowney is that rare type of player.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Player Name: Khalil Mack
Position, School: OLB, Buffalo
Linebackers have a lot of responsibility in Lovie Smith’s Cover 2 scheme. Teaming Mack with all-pro Lavonte David and Mason Foster would give the Bucs quite a talented trio for years to come. There may be other needs, but Mack has the opportunity to turn into an outstanding NFL player. The Bucs could use a solid tackler and use a dynamic pass-rusher like Mack.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Player Name: Derek Carr
Position, School: QB, Fresno State
While Carr struggled at the Senior Bowl and may be a bit of a reach here, the Vikings have to come away with a quarterback. Carr can make any throw on the passing tree and the Vikings met with Carr extensively during the Senior Bowl and reportedly came away impressed. Matt Cassell is now a free agent and Christian Ponder isn’t the answer. Minnesota has to reach on a quarterback here.