The 2014 NFL Draft is four months away, but with so many top prospects declaring and the fate of several franchises in the balance, it isn’t too early for a mock draft.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper kick started draft season by posting his first mock draft on Wednesday, and off his best estimations the football guru predicted Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman-winning sensation Johnny Manziel to go No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans.
The pick makes sense for the Texans, who are in dire need of a new talented quarterback with the ability to bring fans back in droves after the team posted a 2-14 campaign in 2013.
Manziel made headlines for his behavior off the field almost as much as on it, but his skills in and out of the pocket are undeniable and he’s considered by many as one of the best quarterbacks and overall players in this loaded draft.
What can’t be ignored is Houston owner Bob McNair declaring earlier this month that he’s open to trading the pick and selecting a quarterback later, according to ESPN. The Texans finished the year ranked 23rd against the run, and could certainly flip the top selection into several in the later rounds to find a defensive tackle or another defensive end to complement J.J. Watt and a healthy Brian Cushing.
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The Texans have a 50-50 success rate with the top selection. The last time Houston owned the No. 1 pick they selected Mario Williams over Reggie Bush in 2006. Four years prior, they chose quarterback David Carr over Julius Peppers.
Other than Manziel, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, and Fresno State’s Derek Carr will all be in the first-round mix, especially with teams like Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland, and Minnesota all in need of a franchise quarterback.
Prospects like South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, or offensive tackles Taylor Lewan out of Michigan and Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandijo could shoot up draft boards after next month’s combine as well.
Here’s a look at the first 10 picks of May’s draft.
1)Houston Texans, QB, Teddy Bridgewater
This is assuming Manziel fails to impress at the combine. Bridgewater fits the mold of a prototypical NFL quarterback and can make every throw. Manziel’s slighter frame is his biggest downside, and the bigger Bridgewater should be able to take hits at the next level. However, Houston should and will likely trade down, and whoever takes the spot will likely decide between Manziel, Bridgewater, and Clowney.
2)St. Louis Rams (via Washington), OT, Greg Robinson
In last year’s draft there was plenty of back and forth as to which offensive tackle would be off the board first, so A&M’s Luke Matthews could be here as well. Robinson created holes for the nation’s best rushing attack, and the Rams also need protection for Sam Bradford now.
3)Jacksonville Jaguars, DE, Jadeveon Clowney
Two quarterbacks last went in the top three back in 2012 (Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin). Before that the last time was 2002 (David Carr and Joey Harrington). Jacksonville is in dire need of a quarterback, but could be a dominant defense with NFL-ready Clowney as the cornerstone for years to come.
4)Cleveland Browns, QB, Johnny Manziel
The market might not appeal to Manziel, but the Browns already have two incredible targets in receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron on top of one of the best young defenses in the league. The Browns also have six other picks in the first four rounds, and can get Manziel a running back with one of them.
5)Oakland Raiders, OT, Jake Matthews
Also an A&M product, Matthews protected Manziel very well and has ideal size (6-foot-5, 300-plus pounds) to be an exceptional tackle at the next level. If Manziel or Bridgewater falls here, the Raiders will likely take one of them. Otherwise, they could look for top defensive talent like UCLA’s Anthony Barr or Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan.
6)Atlanta Falcons, DE, Kony Early
Lots of pass rushers to choose from and the Falcons must take one of them to improve their 27th ranked defense. A running back is also needed, but that can wait till the later rounds. Kony was third in the SEC in sacks, and the Falcons need someone to take down Drew Brees and Cam Newton in the NFC South.
7)Tampa Bay Buccaneers, LB, Anthony Barr
The Bucs already have a ton of talent on the defensive end, and ranked last in the league with 176.3 passing yards a game. New coach Lovie Smith likely goes defense first, but if he and ownership have no confidence in Mike Glennon, Bortles could go here as well.
8)Minnesota Vikings, QB, Blake Bortles
The Christian Ponder experiment failed, and Bortles proved he’s excellent under pressure in the victory over Baylor. Bortles has great size and a strong enough arm to give Adrian Peterson some breathing room.
9)Buffalo Bills, WR, Sammy Watkins
Protecting E.J. Manuel is a high priority, but if Watkins falls to them, the Bills should take a serious look. He’s explosive, giving Buffalo a solid receiving corps of Watkins, Steve Johnson, and Robert Woods.
10)Detroit Lions, S, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
New head coach Jim Caldwell is already set on offense, but needs plenty of help for the Lions 23rd ranked secondary. Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Florida State’s Terrence Brooks both have top college pedigrees and were part of the two of the best defenses in the country.