2014 Impact Sports NFL Mock Draft

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

The Seattle Seahawks proved that defense wins championships, and for a team that expected to go to the Super Bowl but fell way short due in part to injuries, you cannot pass on Clowney. With Clowney and J.J. Watt as bookends on the defensive line, offensive lines will have a hard time stopping this possible tandem. Clowney’s work ethic has been a big question mark, but Brian Cushing and Watt should be able to set him straight. Although the quarterback situation is not pretty, somebody like A.J. McCarron (Alabama) would be a nice selection in a later round.

2. St. Louis Rams: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

When you face the Seahawks, 49ers and Cardinals defenses six times in a season you need to have a solid offensive line to keep oft-injured Sam Bradford up right. St. Louis’ defense is taking shape and with a nice addition from free agency they should be able to contend with the best of them. Running back Zac Stacy needs a good run blocker as well, so Jake Matthews is a no brainer.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Two Aggies go back-to-back with Johnny Manziel going to Jacksonville. This team has no marketable value, no one wants to watch their games and the team lacks an exciting playmaker. Manziel is not necessarily the most talented quarterback in this year’s draft, but he fits well in Jacksonville. He won’t be perfect and the fans won’t jump all over him as they would in a bigger market. Manziel will put on a show each weekend and make the Jaguars entertaining to watch again.

4. Cleveland Browns: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

The Brandon Weeden era has ended as quickly as it started and the Browns spend another first round draft pick on a quarterback. Bridgewater has a decent receiving core and offensive line waiting for him. They just need a solid running game to be competitive once again. Hopefully Cleveland strikes gold with Teddy, and all their past draft fails will become water under the Bridgewater.

5. Oakland Raiders: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Lions fans crossing all their fingers and toes will not prevent Oakland from taking the most talented wide receiver in this year’s draft. The running game is set with the one-two punch of Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings, now the Raiders have the threat they were missing in the passing game. Oakland has been known to do the wrong thing in past drafts, but it will be too hard to pass on Watkins.

6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Just like the Texans, the Falcons had Super Bowl aspirations in their mind, but the injury bug bit them harder than a college student eating Taco Bell after a long night of partying. It does not make sense to take a running back here, but selecting a Tre Mason type in the second or third round would highly benefit the Falcons. I just don’t see Jacquizz Rodgers or Steven Jackson being the answer. This defense needs a pass rusher to attack Drew Brees and Cam Newton. Mack should step right in and be an upgrade to hopefully get the Falcons to a playoff win and beyond.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Now that the drama of last season is behind them and they have new head coach Lovie Smith to right the ship, joke intended, the Bucco’s will draft a much needed left tackle. Having to stop the likes of Cameron Jordan, Greg Hardy, and Osi Umenyiora was not easy on Tampa last season, and Greg Robinson should be the left anchor this team is looking for. Having to go up against top-ranked defenses all through his college career has prepared him for the NFL.

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

If the Vikings want to stop lying at the bottom of the NFC North, than they need to move on from quarterback Christian Ponder. It is pretty clear he is not the franchise quarterback they were looking for, and having Matt Cassel start your games won’t get this team anywhere either. This quarterback from the state of Florida will fare much better than the last. He will have the same weapons on offense that Ponder had, but Bortles has more big play ability. Bortles better buy his girlfriend a scarf.

9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Last year, the Bills drafted their hopeful quarterback of the future in EJ Manuel. When you have what you think is your long-term quarterback, you need some long-term tackles. Lewan will come in and be an immediate starter. He will also help open wide running lanes for running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.

10. Detroit Lions: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M:

Calvin Johnson finally gets his complement in Mike Evans. The big 6-foot-5 receiver should steer some of the coverage away from Megatron. Evans does have some character issues, but the Lions new coaching staff should straighten him out. Marqise Lee is another option here, but last year he struggled with a knee injury and the Lions cannot afford to draft another player who has the potential to become injury prone. Spartans will be disappointed Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard won’t be bringing his “No Fly Zone” to the D. There is no true shutdown corner in this draft and the Lions would be better off looking in free agency.

11. Tennessee Titans: Zach Martin, OT, Notre Dame

Tennessee faces the reality of losing one or two of their offensive linemen to free agency due to their massive salary cap hits. Martin will replace either David Stewart or Michael Ross.

12. New York Giants: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

The Giants’ defense was not very good last year and was in the bottom half of the league in sacks. Barr should help create pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Defensive end Kony Ealy or defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan are also options here if Barr does not drop. Bottom line: the Giants just need to create more pressure.

13.  St. Louis Rams: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

The Rams are back on the clock and their focus should be on defense this time. If they do not get cornerback Cortland Finnegan’s contract restructured before the first day of the new NFL year he will be released. Gilbert is considered by some the most talented corner in this year’s draft and will become an immediate starter in St. Louis.

14. Chicago Bears: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

The Bears’ offense is set in stone and the focus now is on defense. Safety Major Wright is set to be a free agent and replacing him with a younger Clinton-Dix should improve a defense that faces the aerial attacks of Matt Stafford and Aaron Rodgers twice a year. A defensive end is also an option with the chance of Julius Peppers being cut this offseason. Peppers is owed $14 million this upcoming season.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Marqise Lee, WR, USC

The Steelers got good production out of their wideouts last season, but Emmanuel Sanders is expected to hit the market and create an immediate void alongside Antonio Brown. Lee will step in on day one and the Steelers’ offense will not miss Sanders in the slightest. If Lee is gone at this spot, look for Pittsburgh to go defensively due to the draft being deep with receivers. With an aging secondary the Steelers could also look at Dennard here.

16. Dallas Cowboys: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

With the emergence of wide receiver Terrance Williams last season, Dallas will not draft a wide out early to replace Miles Austin. Instead, they will focus on the defense where the Cowboys need a defensive tackle. They choose Nix to help stop the running attacks of LeSean McCoy and Alfred Morris.

17. Baltimore Ravens: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

There is a chance that Terrell Suggs will not be in a Ravens uniform next season. Suggs is entering the final year of his contract and is set to make $12.4 million in 2014. With the chance of losing Suggs, on top of the hole left by Ray Lewis’ retirement, the Ravens need to find their linebacker of the feature. Mosley helped anchor Bama’s defense for the last few seasons and will look to be the new face of the Ravens’ defense.

18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

Other than quarterback Geno Smith, the Jets have absolutely no offense. They take the most talented offensive weapon on the board in Ebron. He played some wide receiver in college, but will be used as a tight end. Ebron will be used as Geno Smith’s safety valve. Look for the Jets to draft mainly on the offensive side of the ball. With their defense getting them to 8-8 last season, the Jets could be a playoff sleeper this coming season.

19. Miami Dolphins: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

With all the drama surrounding the Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito allegations, the Dolphins are set to lose two of their starting offensive tackles. Look for the Dolphins to select to most talented tackle available, and on my list it is Kouandjio.

20. Arizona Cardinals: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn

Darnell Dockett is getting old and the Cardinals need to start looking for a replacement. Dee Ford can start as a rotational player this season and learn the ropes from Dockett, and once Dockett either retires, or gets cut, Ford will be able to step in as his replacement.

21. Green Bay Packers: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

Just like the Cardinals, the Packers will be looking to replace an aging defensive lineman in B.J. Raji. If they don’t re-sign cornerback Sam Shields, Dennard is also very good option here. It’s better to have a good cornerback who knows the league than a new one who does not. Donald led the country with 1.6 sacks per game and has the potential to be the perfect replacement for Raji.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

The Eagles have a pretty decent team and at the twenty-second pick have the luxury to select the best player available. Dennard will bring his “No Fly Zone” to Philly’s No. 9 ranked pass defense. It’s kind of contradictory that the “No Fly Zone” comes to the Eagles, a team whose mascot lives by flying around. Let’s hope this doesn’t bring any misfortune to the team or its mascot.

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

Just like the Lions, the Chiefs need a complement for their star receiver, Dwayne Bowe. At 6-foot-5, Benjamin will match up nicely to the NFL’s big corners. It’s been awhile since the Chiefs have had two big receivers and Jamaal Charles will appreciate fewer men in the box waiting for him.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

Expect the Bengals to draft a quarterback later on in the draft as Andy Dalton’s replacement. This is a complete team and Dalton’s arm is one of the reasons why they have not gone further than the first round of the playoffs. Besides Dalton, the Bengals’ secondary is starting to age a bit and could use some fresh legs. He will learn the ropes from some really solid corners such as Leon Hall and Terrence Newman.

25. San Diego Chargers: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

The Chargers defense was just dreadful this year. They ranked No. 28 in sacks and No. 26 in interceptions. With some of the top corners gone, the Chargers pick the best defensive player available in Ealy. They are lucky he falls this far and reap the benefits almost immediately.

26. Cleveland Browns: David Yankey, OG, Stanford

It is too early to take a running back and you do not want your new franchise quarterback getting hurt, so the Browns beef up their line with Yankey.

27. New Orleans Saints: Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville

The Saints just dumped a good portion of their aging defense to free up cap space, leaving a need in the backfield left by safety Roman Harper. Pryor is the next man in line to defend against Cam Newton and Matt Ryan. The Saints will use the free agent market to help fill the rest of the holes. Look for them to draft a wide receiver in the second or third round to replace Robert Meachem.

28. Carolina Panthers: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

The Panthers have a solid team and Cam Newton seems to be worth the first overall draft pick. All they have left to do is sure up the offensive line. Moses will be their long-term solution at left or right tackle.

29. New England Patriots: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

Every football fan knows the Patriots’ tight end situation, and they will be picking a new one with their first round pick. Brady will make an immediate connection with Amaro and a new tight end era in New England will take over. If Amaro is gone, or New England just does not think he is worthy of the pick, look for them to take a wide receiver instead.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

Shazier will be drafted as Aldon Smith’s replacement. Smith has one year left on his contract and the 49ers do not seem interested in giving him a long-term deal after he checked into a rehab facility during this past season.

31. Denver Broncos: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

They say defense wins championships, and the Broncos went to the Super Bowl and did not win. They will start upgrading their defense from the front by drafting Ra’Shede Hageman. His gigantic frame will immediately wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines.

32. Seattle Seahawks: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State

The new Super Bowl champs are set to lose some receivers to free agency and Allen Robinson is theirs for the taking. At 6-foot-6 he will become the deep threat they thought they were getting with Sidney Rice. Tight end is also a position they could draft at this spot.

Louis Bilotta is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.

Photo: National Football League