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Mason's Mock: 1.0

Posted Mar 14, 2014

Independent analyst Andrew Mason gives his take on how the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft will shake out.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Two notes to begin:

1. This reflects where teams' needs are now. That's why I'll update it multiple times over the coming weeks; free agency will make this a fluid exercise.

2. In anticipation of social-media responses, a caveat: this is my best guess to ascertain teams' intent -- and not necessarily what I would do if I made the call.

Without further ado, here's my mock 2014 first round, version 1.0. This will be revisited in the coming weeks.

1. HOUSTON (2-14): QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

There are a lot of reasons for this, starting with an offense-oriented new head coach (Bill O'Brien) and a need for a spark to complement a decent supporting cast. But it's that surrounding team that makes the Bridgewater pick logical. A healthy Arian Foster, a still-elite Andre Johnson and an emerging DeAndre Hopkins, along with some defensive standouts, ensure that the Texans are unlikely to pick close to this spot again. They could bounce back up the standings like the Colts did in 2012, and if that happens, when will they have another opportunity to pick an elite quarterback prospect? Bridgewater isn't the slam dunk that Andrew Luck was two years ago, but there's an awful lot to like, and the intelligent, precise passer would mesh well with O'Brien.

2. ST. LOUIS (7-9, from Washington): OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

Jadeveon Clowney is tempting here, and pairing him with Robert Quinn would give the Rams the scariest pair of edge rushers in the league. But the Rams have re-committed to Sam Bradford, and that means giving the oft-injured quarterback the best chance possible to stay upright.

3. JACKSONVILLE (4-12); DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

A no-brainer for Gus Bradley if he falls to this point. The Jaguars still need a quarterback, but the two-year contract given to Chad Henne buys them time -- and the flexibility to bypass a quarterback.

4. CLEVELAND (4-12): QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

He's going to make coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer nervous. He'll make other staffers tear out their hair follicles. But on game days, he'll make at least one play a game that will take their breath away. With two outstanding offensive linemen anchoring the protection in front of him (left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack if he re-signs) and an elite target in wide receiver Josh Gordon, the pieces are here for Manziel to jolt the Browns back to relevance.

5. OAKLAND (4-12); OT Taylor Lewan, Michigan

There are other tempting options, but after losing Jared Veldheer to the Cardinals and the Rodger Saffold fiasco, the Raiders' offensive line won't be able to find a potential elite newcomer on the market. It has to come here.

6. ATLANTA (4-12): OT Greg Robinson, Auburn

If Clowney falls to the third pick, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Falcons attempt to trade up and get him. But if they stay put, the high-upside Robinson helps upgrade at least one of the lines. Both are in need of repair, and both will be targeted throughout the draft.

7. TAMPA BAY (4-12): LB Kahlil Mack, Buffalo

Brian Urlacher, 2.0? Lovie Smith helped refine Urlacher into a potential Hall of Famer and could find the next generation of elite 4-3 linebacker here.

8. MINNESOTA (5-10-1): QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida

Three years after taking Christian Ponder, the Vikings go back to the quarterback well, although Bortles is not near the reach that Ponder was. New Head Coach Mike Zimmer saw first-hand what a good, but not great, quarterback could lead to in pressure situations. And in the NFC North, he's surrounded by franchise quarterbacks. The decision to re-sign Matt Cassel means Bortles wouldn't have to start immediately.

9. BUFFALO (6-10): WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson

Instability at quarterback didn't help, but the Bills' wide receivers underachieved in 2013. But if Watkins is paired with Steve Johnson, that could change, and 2013 first-rounder E.J. Manuel would have a good shot to succeed under center. If Watkins somehow falls this far, Bills general manager Doug Whaley's cell phone might overheat from teams trying to move up.

10. DETROIT (7-9): CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

A defense in desperate need of coverage help couldn't do better than Gilbert, whose outstanding Combine workout is backed up by great film.

11. TENNESSEE (7-9): CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

A replacement for Alterraun Verner, who signed with the Bucs in free agency, is what the Titans desperately need.

12. N.Y. GIANTS (7-9): TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina

Brandon Myers didn't fit the bill, and left in free agency. With Hakeem Nicks likely not returning, the Giants need another target, and when Ebron matures, he can offer Eli Manning a big underneath option he has rarely enjoyed.

13. ST. LOUIS (7-9): WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M

This would give the Rams receivers in two consecutive first rounds, but Evans could scarcely be more different from 2013 first-rounder Tavon Austin in skill set and style. He's a big, physical target the Rams lack.

14. CHICAGO (8-8): S "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix, Alabama

The Bears need upgrades all over their defense, but Clinton-Dix offers the best chance for an immediate upgrade, especially with four games against the air-intensive Packers and Lions.

15. PITTSBURGH (8-8): LB Anthony Barr, UCLA

Pair him with recently re-signed Jason Worilds, and the Steelers are a step closer to reclaiming their nasty, unsubtle defensive identity.

16. DALLAS (8-8): DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

Donald is the kind of three-technique defensive tackle that Monte Kiffin's defense desperately needs in order to be effective up front.

17. BALTIMORE (8-8): LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama

If the Ravens don't re-sign Daryl Smith, Mosley makes sense, and brings the kind of nose for the ball and attitude that has defined Baltimore's defense for a generation.

18. N.Y. JETS (8-8): WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU

The signing of Eric Decker only goes so far; the Jets need another target. As a darting, 5-foot-9, 189-pounder with moves and return ability, Beckham is a good complement for Decker, and gives quarterback Geno Smith a dump-off option; get the ball to Beckham outside and let him make something happen.

19. MIAMI (8-8): OT Zack Martin, Notre Dame

It would surprise no one if Miami takes multiple offensive linemen on the first two days of the draft. Martin can be plugged in on the right side, with Branden Albert on the left.

20. ARIZONA (10-6): DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State

On the surface, he would appear to be an awkward fit for a 3-4 defense, but the Cardinals throw so many looks at opponents that the 298-pounder will have no trouble finding playing time. Jernigan is light enough on his feet to be moved around the line in its various looks, and he can occupy multiple blockers.

21. GREEN BAY (8-7-1): S Calvin Pryor, Louisville

The retention of cornerback Sam Shields helps the Packers' secondary, but they need a safety who can be effective in the box without sacrificing coverage.

22. PHILADELPHIA (10-6): DT Ra'shede Hageman, Minnesota

It will be up to the Eagles to try to channel Hageman's fits of brilliance into consistent play. But the potential, quickness and size (6-foot-6, 315-pounds) is too good to ignore.

23. KANSAS CITY (11-5): WR Marqise Lee, USC

A perfect match of player and need. Kansas City needs outside threats to ease the burden on Jamaal Charles.

24. CINCINNATI (11-5): CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

The Bengals need an infusion of youth at cornerback, and although quarterback Derek Carr is still on the board, Andy Dalton will get another year to prove that he's more than a mid-level starter.

25. SAN DIEGO (9-7): CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State

Roby had an excellent Combine workout, and allows the Chargers to work toward a permanent answer to the secondary questions that dogged them last year.

26. CLEVELAND (4-12, from Indianapolis): LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State

The departure of D'Qwell Jackson and the need for young speed and athleticism at linebacker leads the Browns to keep Shazier in-state.

27. NEW ORLEANS (11-5): LB/DE Dee Ford, Auburn

Ford seems too perfect for what Rob Ryan wants off the edge, and the 244-pounder can potentially play every down. In a 4-3 defense, Ford can only reasonably contribute in sub packages.

28. CAROLINA (12-4): OT Morgan Moses, Virginia

The needs are piling up for the cap-strapped Panthers, but none are more pressing than along their offensive line, which needs to replace retiring tackle Jordan Gross and has had its depth sapped by retirements. The red flags on Cyrus Kouandijo make Moses the pick.

29. NEW ENGLAND (12-4): DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame

With Vince Wilfork making noise about wanting out, the Patriots could need a massive presence on the inside. The 331-pound Nix fits the bill.

30. SAN FRANCISCO (12-4): WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

Benjamin offers the 49ers the best shot to stretch out defenses with another vertical threat.

31. DENVER (13-3): WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State

There are plenty of directions in which the Broncos could go, but if Derek Carr drops in the draft -- and he is still on the board in this mock -- then the Broncos' phone will be buzzing with trade-down offers. Nevertheless, if Cooks is on the board, he's tempting. The 5-foot-10, 189-pounder can help immediately on returns, and brings a different element -- a darting, breakaway threat -- to the offense.

32. SEATTLE (13-3): G Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA

The Seahawks have few weak points, but their interior offensive line could use a boost. Su'a-Filo is quick, powerful and had good enough footwork to work at left tackle in college.

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