Richner: Mock Draft

by Matt Richner, NFL Draft Expert
Utilizing our unique, objective approach to player projections and development, PredictionMachine.com presents its 2014 NFL Draft content, including a Seven Round Mock Draft, Position-by-Position Reports, Statistical Breakdowns and Future Projections for all prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft. New this year is the NFL Draft Machine for customizable mock drafts and comprehensive draft evaluation. All NFL Draft Content is FREE from PredictionMachine.com's Paul Bessire and John Ewing as well as NFL Draft Expert Matt Richner.

NFL Draft Expert Matt Richner projects the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. With a complete evaluation of team's needs, strengths and weaknesses, this mock draft represents what each organization SHOULD do in the 2014 NFL Draft. Each draft selection is based upon team needs, players strengths, offensive and defensive scheme assignments, and players overall talent level. These are the highest rated players on Matt's board along with who he feels will achieve the most sustained success in the NFL with each roster. Read Matt's comments on each first round pick below.

1. Houston Texans: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo: Clearly the Texans need a quarterback as they currently have Case Keenum or Ryan Fitzpatrick penciled in as their starting quarterback. So why don't they select Teddy Bridgewater or any of the other available quarterbacks with the first overall selection? For two reasons; first, none of the quarterbacks in this draft are ready to be a starting quarterback in their first season in the NFL. All of them are going to need at least a year to sit, watch and learn the position. Secondly, their defense is the strength and foundation of this organization. Having J.J. Watt and Khalil Mack coming off the edge would create an almost impossible force. The addition of Mack would vault this team's defenses into the conversation of the best defenses in the NFL with the likes of the 49ers and Seahawks. Mack is a do-it-all type of outside linebacker who is an instant upgrade over their current starter Whitney Mercilus.

2. St. Louis Rams: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: Starting quarterback Sam Bradford has had a problem staying upright during his short career. The Rams have significant holes at wide receiver, safety and corner. The addition of Matthews, paired with starting left tackle Jake Long, would give the Rams two bookend tackles. Matthews played the right tackle position during his first two seasons in college. In time, he should be able to slide over from the right to the left tackle spot. Matthews consistently shut down college football top pass rushers and should have no problem adjusting to the speed and power of the NFL top pass rushers.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: The Jags have a lot of holes on both sides of the ball. While Chad Henne is not a long term answer as a starting quarterback, he is a quality stopgap between the present and the future. Clowney has the skill set to remake the Jaguars defense into an elite unit. With his combination of speed and athleticism he will make an immediate impact as a pass rusher and in shutting down opponent's rushing attacks. Gus Bradley has the experience and personality to get the maximum effort out of Clowney.

4. Cleveland Browns: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA: Another quarterback needy team that should pass on a signal caller until the later rounds. While Barr has only played two seasons as an OLB, this converted running back/tight end has quickly developed into one of the best young pass rushers to come into the NFL in a long time. The Browns have two first round picks and with a number of holes on both sides of the ball, every pick should be able to step in and contribute right away. The combination of Barr and Paul Kruger coming off the edge gives the Browns a legitimate pass rushing tag-team that will keep opposing quarterbacks up at night.

5. Oakland Raiders: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: After watching their starting left tackle Jared Veldheer sign with the Arizona Cardinals, Oakland went ahead and filled his spot with former Tampa Bay offensive lineman Donald Penn. The Raiders have invested a significant amount of resources into acquiring and signing Matt Schaub as their starting quarterback. Robinson is an athletic offensive lineman who will pay immediate dividends in improving the Raiders rushing attack. While he has some work to do to improve in pass protection, he definitely has a bright future and could be a cornerstone the Raiders can start building around.

6. Atlanta Falcons: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: The Falcons had high hopes going into the 2013 season, but those hopes quickly vanished as injuries and losses continued to mount up as the season progressed. While they have weapons on offense, their defense needs a significant upgrade. Donald is rated as one of the top five prospects in this year's draft and would be an absolute steal for the Falcons. His production in college exceeded that of Ndamukong Suh. With the speed and agility to knife into the opposing backfield, his fastest sack while blocked last season was 2.19 seconds. He utilizes his speed and power well, collapsing the pocket and causing chaos in the backfield.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: With a one-two punch of Vincent Jackson and Watkins, opposing defenses will be scared to leave either one of these players in one-on-one situations. With an experienced signal caller in Josh McCown as the starting quarterback, he should have no problem getting the ball into the hands of either one of these two offensive weapons. Watkins has the speed to stretch the field both vertically and horizontally. One issue for Watkins is his limited experience running routes. At Clemson, close to 50 percent of his pass completions last season were screens.

8. Minnesota Vikings: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State: Playing in a conference where you have arguably the best collection of quarterbacks and receivers, you better have the corners to match up against them. Dennard is the top corner back on my board, a shutdown type of talent whose average reception allowed last season was only 7 YPC. Pairing Dennard with last year's former first round pick, Xavier Rhodes, would give the Vikings a pair of young corners who have the size and ability to go against their division's rivals.

9. Buffalo Bills: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State: The Bills invested heavily in their offense in the 2013 NFL Draft using their first round pick on QB EJ Manuel and a second round selection on Robert Woods. Roby is a physical presence across the field and will battle opposing receivers at the line of scrimmage. Roby would give them two bigger corners, along with 2012 first round pick Stephon Gilmore, that have the ability to play man-to-man on the outside with Roby being an active participant in run support. Look for the Bills to continue their focus of surrounding Manuel with weapons with their picks on Day 2 of the draft.

10. Detroit Lions: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: While it is not a secret that the Lions need an upgrade in their defensive secondary, Cooks is too rare of a talent to pass up. A combination of Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Brandon Pettigrew and possibly Cooks, gives the Lions more weapons than most defenses can keep up with. Cooks will be able to shred defenses out of the slot and give quarterback Matt Stafford the target out of the slot that he has missed since coming into the NFL. He is perfectly suited for the slot position in the NFL; over 45 percent of his receptions came within the first five yards of the line of scrimmage.

11. Tennessee Titans: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: The Titans need an upgrade at the quarterback position and Jake Locker is not the answer. In time, Bridgewater should develop into a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. Locker will be given the starting quarterback spot early on and this will give Bridgewater some time to learn the offense while getting comfortable in Ken Whisenhunt's system. The Titans have a solid foundation of young talent that they have quietly built over the last couple of years. They just need a durable quarterback who can lead them from mediocrity to being a division and eventually a conference contender.

12. New York Giants: C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama: Pure and simple, Mosley is a tackling machine. He leads all linebackers in this year's draft class with 446.5 career tackles. Mosley is an athletic middle linebacker who gets depth in his drops and can take away the middle of the field with his range and athleticism. His speed allows him to track down ball carriers and make plays across the field. Look for the Giants to focus on offensive line in the second and third day of the draft. In 676 snaps last season, he only had three missed or broken tackles. For his career Mosley had 65.5 impact plays, an average of 1.28 impact plays per game.

13. St. Louis Rams: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt: The second rated outside wide receiver on my board, Matthews played in 51 career games and finished his career as the single-season and career receiving record holder for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns for Vanderbilt and as the SEC all-time leader in career receptions and receiving yards. The Rams have been searching for weapons to surround Sam Bradford with and Matthews is the perfect to piece to help complete the puzzle.

14. Chicago Bears: Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois: An aging defensive secondary is in desperate need of some youthful talent. Ward is the top rated saftey in this year's draft class, a quintessential ball-hawking safety that most NFL teams are looking for. He has the speed and quickness to play the center field position and take away the deep ball. With a team that is stacked at almost every offensive skill position and along the offensive line, Ward could end up be a key contributor on a team that strives for a deep playoff run next season.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State: The Steelers are a team that has battled injuries and an older roster and could use to infusion of youth and talent along the defensive line. Lawrence is the second ranked defensive end on my board. An all-around skilled pass rusher who can create havoc, he has the speed to quickly get around the corner, and the power to drive his man into the backfield. Some off the field concerns will leave teams wary, but the Steelers have a veteran laden team that should keep him on the straight and narrow.

16. Dallas Cowboys: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State: The departure of DeMarcus Ware has left a huge hole at the defensive end/outside linebacker position. Shazier is one of the more impressive athletes in this year draft class. Though he is a smaller than ideal for an outside linebacker at 6'1” and 236 pounds, he does a great job at shedding blockers and tracking the football. A sure-handed tackler, he only allowed 13 missed or broken tackles last season, which might seem high, but he played in 898 snaps.

17. Baltimore Ravens: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State: A physical, tough minded saftey who can play the deep center field role that has been missing since the departure of Ed Reed. While Bucannon is not Ed Reed, he can help bring back the physical style of football that the Ravens are historically known for. At 6'1” and 211 pounds, he has the size and speed to match-up with most tight ends in the NFL. He showed dramatic improvement in his coverage skills last season, recording six interceptions in 2013.

18. New York Jets: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: Regardless of who lines up under center, whether it's Mike Vick or Geno Smith, the Jets don't have lot of options at the offensive skill positions. The recent additions of Eric Decker and Chris Johnson will help, but a big bodied target such as Mike Evans will be an instant upgrade to a woeful offense. A deep downfield threat with his size and speed, over a quarter of Evan's receptions came fifteen yards or farther past the line of scrimmage last season. Once he gets ahold of the ball he is very difficult to take down, averaging 1.3 broken tackles per reception last season.

19. Miami Dolphins: Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State: The Dolphins had problems in more ways than one along their offensive line last season. Jackson is the top rated guard on my board, he is a mammoth run blocker who will bring a tough physical mentality to a unit that has little experience working with one another. The Dolphins have invested a lot into starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, it is about time they invested in ensuring he stays upright.

20. Arizona Cardinals: Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin: The Cardinals almost get two first round selections this year. Last year's top pick Jonathan Cooper will return from an injury he sustained during training camp. While they play in the toughest division, the Cardinals are an improving franchise that is bound to break out this season. With a stacked roster of playmakers on offense, their defense is in need of an upgrade at the inside linebacker position opposite of Daryl Washington. Borland, is a tackling machine, who should be an instant upgrade over Kevin Minter.

21. Green Bay Packers: Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech: A bit of a luxury pick, Amaro is just too good of a weapon to pass up at this pick. An offensive formation of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy, and Jace Amaro as your primary weapons, screams explosive. Opposing defenses will have a hard time trying to figure out who to cover. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm and all those weapons, this is a team that is right back in the hunt for a championship.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU: The emergence of Brandon Boykin has been a welcome surprise to the Eagles. The Eagles have a number of options and needs but a talent like Verrett can't be passed up. He can play the slot, cover the quicker, speedier wide receivers and over time I think he could develop into a quality starting saftey. At just 5'9” and 189 lbs, Verrett is smaller than the ideal size for an NFL defensive back. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in speed and quickness. While taller defensive backs are highly coveted right now, it would be wise to remember that some of the most prolific and accomplished wide receivers are still under six feet tall. Don't expect the Eagles to take a wide receiver in the first or second round.

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Cyrus Kouandijo, OT, Alabama: Some health issues arose around Kouandijo's knee at the NFL Combine. While doctors have said he knee is fine, some teams are wary of his long term health. The Chiefs have some holes, specifically at the wide receiver position and the offensive line. With last year's first overall pick Eric Fisher sliding over from right tackle to left tackle, this creates a hole that Kouandijo should be able to step in and take over.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: At 6'0” and 202 lbs, Gilbert has the size, speed and strength to match-up with most of the elite wide receivers in the NFL. Gilbert does have a tendency to leave too much space between himself and the receiver, which allows the receiver the opportunity to make a play on the ball deep down the field. A game-changer on special teams, Gilbert ranks fourth amongst active players in career KO Return Yards with 2,681 and first in KO Return TDs with six. Former first round pick Dre Kirkpatrick is at a pivotal moment in his career, if he can't become the shutdown corner that he was drafted to be, Gilbert might be the player to step up into that role.

25. San Diego Chargers: David Yankey, OG, Stanford: A team with pressing needs in the defensive secondary, they would get a lot more value in selecting the second overall rated guard versus the fifth ranked defensive corner on my board. Yankey, teamed up with last year's first round pick, DJ Fluker, would create one of the league's most physical, punishing offenses lines in the NFL. Yankey has experience playing in a pro-style offense. The longer they can protect Phillip Rivers, the longer this organization can delay in finding his replacement.

26. Cleveland Browns: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington: I'm sure most of you are thinking quarterback, and with the recent emergence of Jordan Cameron at the tight end spot that this is not a smart selection. Seferian-Jenkins is the top rated tight end on my board, with Josh Gordon and Jordan, they would have three explosive pass catchers capable of mismatches across the field. They would also have built a solid foundation of athletic talent that a young quarterback, whether this season or next, could come in and have the weapons they need to be successful.

27. New Orleans Saints: Trent Murphy, DE/OLB, Stanford: Murphy's versatility is his most important asset. He can play with his hand down on the ground or be a stand-up pass rusher. A three-down lineman, he has good quickness and speed to cover running backs out of the backfield and good depth in his drops to play in zone coverage. He has a variety of pass rushing moves, and over the past year has developed a counter-move to his typical outside speed rush that he used often in his first couple of seasons. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will be excited to have a versatile athlete like Murphy to deploy in various situations and schemes this season.

28. Carolina Panthers: Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin: The Panthers have put themselves into a bit of a hole, with an inexperienced receiving core and an offensive line that has a number of holes they must address during the draft. A former walk-on, all Abbrederis has done is improve multiple aspects of his game each and every season. A skilled route-runner and a playmaker, Abbrederis averaged a touchdown once every 8.8 receptions. He should be a reliable target that Cam Newton can look for in clutch situations.

29. New England Patriots: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville: A tough, physical saftey that the Patriots have been looking for the past few season. He can step in and become the starter on day one. With a veteran defensive secondary led by Devin McCourty, Pryor will have a mentor and teammate that can put him in the right positions to be successful. For his career, he had 72 career impact plays, an average of 1.89 impact plays per game. A bit of a home run hitter from the safety position, he is always looking to make the big play

30. San Francisco 49ers: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU: This team is built on a power running attack on offense, and a tough, physical, punch you in the mouth type of defense. Last year they selected Tank Carradine (Florida State) in the second round, Carradine tore his ACL before the draft and had to sit out the season. A combination of Van Noy and Carradine would help recharge a defense that has lost some key members to injuries (Navorro Bowman), and possible suspensions (Aldon Smith). Very few players have the versatility and athleticism of Van Noy. He is a smart player who always seems to be around the football. While he doesn't have one go-to pass-rush move, he can quickly shed blockers and has the presence to knock the football out of opposing quarterbacks' hands. With some time and development, he can be groomed into a quality pass rusher and a top-tier cover linebacker.

31. Denver Broncos: Zach Martin, OT, Notre Dame: A win-now attitude has engulfed the Broncos organization with the recent free agent signings of Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, and TJ Ward. While they lost starting guard Zane Beadles in free agency, they must remember that as long as Peyton Manning stays upright they have a fighting chance to win a Super Bowl. Martin is one of the top tackles in the draft who will provide the versatility to step in and play anywhere along the offensive line. He can be groomed to be Clady's replacement in case of an injury and long term he should be able to overtake Orlando Franklin's spot at the right tackle position.

32. Seattle Seahawks, Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor: Former first round pick James Carpenter has not developed into the player the Hawks envisioned. Richardson is a massive run mauler who is perfectly suited for the Seahawks offense. He played in a hyper-speed spread offense and has the quickness to get out to edge and into the second level to pick up a key block. Since this is Seattle, they always seem to go against popular opinion when it comes to their first round draft picks. I don't think this year will be any different.

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