The 2014 NFL draft is less than a month away, and the Houston Texans still appear undecided with how they will use the No. 1 overall pick.
The Texans’ choice will dictate how the rest of the first round shakes out. If they draft a quarterback, some very good players will fall out of the top 10. If they take Jadeveon Clowney, the quarterbacks likely will fall into the bottom of the first round or into the second round.
It seems there isn’t a consensus about who is the best quarterback in the 2014 draft class. The Internet draft scouts love Teddy Bridgewater, but NFL teams seem to be worried about his size and potential. There are four first-round quarterbacks in this mock draft, and the Patriots aren’t one of the teams drafting a signal-caller.
Check out which pass rusher the Patriots could take No. 29 overall next month as NESN.com rolls out its latest mock draft.
1. Houston Texans (2-14): Jadeveon Clowney, defensive end, South Carolina
The Texans need a quarterback, but head coach Bill O’Brien will know if one is worth the first overall pick. It doesn’t sound like a signal-caller is worthy of going No. 1, so Houston will take the best player in the draft.
2. St. Louis Rams from Washington Redskins (3-13): Sammy Watkins, wide receiver, Clemson
The Rams have had a difficult time finding a No. 1 wide receiver for quarterback Sam Bradford. Watkins is an explosive player who could pair well with last year’s first-round pick, wide receiver Tavon Austin.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12): Khalil Mack, outside linebacker, Buffalo
Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley learned from Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll that a team never can have too many pass rushers. Mack can play linebacker in the base defense and defensive end in sub packages.
4. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Greg Robinson, offensive tackle, Auburn
The Browns already have left tackle Joe Thomas, but Robinson can solidify the line from right tackle or guard. He has exceptional upside and an already high floor.
5. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Johnny Manziel, quarterback, Texas A&M
The Raiders traded for quarterback Matt Schaub, but he can’t be the team’s plan for the future. If Manziel is available, the Raiders might need to pull the trigger.
6. Atlanta Falcons (4-12): Jake Matthews, offensive tackle, Texas A&M
If the Falcons don’t take Matthews here, fans could riot. Atlanta needs a franchise left tackle.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12): Mike Evans, wide receiver, Texas A&M
There’s not a No. 2 receiver to be found on the Bucs’ depth chart. There’s No. 1 wideout Vincent Jackson and a bunch of No. 5s. Evans, who’s 6-foot-5, would be huge (literally) for Tampa Bay.
8. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1): Blake Bortles, quarterback, Central Florida
A team with Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder as the only quarterbacks on the roster needs to draft a signal-caller. Bortles has a ton of upside, and Cassel can play until the young signal-caller is ready.
9. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Taylor Lewan, offensive tackle, Michigan
Lewan has tons of upside, but his off-the-field issues have him falling past Robinson and Matthews.
10. Detroit Lions (7-9): C.J. Mosley, linebacker, Alabama
Mosley could drop because of health issues, but based on talent alone, he should be a top-10 pick. We’ll find out in May where he falls off the board.
11. Tennessee Titans (7-9): Justin Gilbert, cornerback, Oklahoma State
It’s difficult to predict which cornerback will be drafted first. It could be Gilbert, Darqueze Dennard, Kyle Fuller or Bradley Roby. We have Gilbert filling the void that cornerback Alterraun Verner left when he signed with the Bucs.
12. New York Giants (7-9): Eric Ebron, tight end, North Carolina
The Giants need to add another offensive weapon. They don’t have a lot of talent at tight end with Brandon Myers gone to the Bucs.
13. St. Louis Rams (7-9): Aaron Donald, defensive tackle, Pittsburgh
The Rams have a lot of talent along their defensive line, but any team could add a player like Donald. He might not be around at No. 13, but if he is, the Rams should scoop him up.
14. Chicago Bears (8-8): Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, safety, Alabama
The Bears still help along their offensive line, but their needs on defense are greater. Clinton-Dix could go higher than No. 14, but if two quarterbacks are drafted in the top 10, talented players will fall in the draft.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Odell Beckham, wide receiver, LSU
The Steelers let wide receiver Mike Wallace walk last offseason, and wideout Emmanuel Sanders left for the Denver Broncos last month. They have receivers Antonio Brown, Lance Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey and last year’s third-round pick, Markus Wheaton, atop their depth chart. Beckham doesn’t have Evans’ size, but he might be a more talented player.
16. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Anthony Barr, pass rusher, UCLA
Pass rusher DeMarcus Ware is gone, and outside linebacker Anthony Spencer remains unsigned. The Cowboys desperately need pass rushers, and Barr has tons of upside at linebacker or defensive end.
17. Baltimore Ravens (8-8): Zack Martin, offensive lineman, Notre Dame
The Ravens claim they’re set at right tackle with Rick Wagner and David Mims, but we’re not buying it. Martin would be an improvement over last year’s starter, Michael Oher, who signed with the Titans as a free agent.
18. New York Jets (8-8): Brandin Cooks, wide receiver, Oregon State
Cooks might look slightly redundant with Jeremy Kerley already on the roster, but either player can line up at “Z” receiver. Cooks could be Michael Vick’s new DeSean Jackson.
19. Miami Dolphins (8-8): Morgan Moses, offensive tackle, Virginia
Guards Richie Incognito and John Jerry and offensive tackle Jonathan Martin are gone after the Dolphins’ 2013 bullying scandal. Moses is flying up experts’ draft rankings.
20. Arizona Cardinals (10-6): Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback, Louisville
There’s little buzz around the Cardinals drafting a quarterback in the first round, but they should be looking for one. They had success with Carson Palmer at quarterback, but he threw 24 touchdown passes and 22 interceptions in 2013.
21. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1): Calvin Pryor, safety, Louisville
Pryor won’t dazzle anyone with his coverage skills, but he’s a big hitter who can patrol the middle of the field.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6): Marqise Lee, wide receiver, USC
Lee had 12 catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns against Chip Kelly’s Oregon Ducks in 2012 and eight receptions for 187 yards and a score in 2011. The Eagles need another top receiver after releasing Jackson.
23. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5): Ra’Shede Hageman, defensive lineman, Minnesota
The Chiefs let Tyson Jackson walk in free agency, and they could use another defensive lineman to rotate with Allen Bailey and Mike DeVito at five-technique defensive end. Hageman has effort question marks but tons of upside.
24. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5): Derek Carr, quarterback, Fresno State
The Bengals claim they’re trying to extend quarterback Andy Dalton’s contract, but why should they? He’s only an adequate starting quarterback who doesn’t appear to be improving year to year. Carr could be an improvement, and the Bengals are a quarterback away from being true contenders.
25. San Diego Chargers (9-7): Louis Nix, defensive tackle, Notre Dame
The Chargers could use some more beef in the middle of their defensive line. Nix is the best nose tackle in the draft.
26. Cleveland Browns from Indianapolis Colts (4-12): Ryan Shazier, linebacker, Ohio State
The Browns just signed Karlos Dansby to start at inside linebacker, but they could use an improvement over Craig Robertson. Shazier would be key in coverage on third down and in sub packages.
27. New Orleans Saints (11-5): Kyle Fuller, cornerback, Virginia Tech
Signing Champ Bailey shouldn’t prevent the Saints from drafting a cornerback. And if Fuller is available, New Orleans should jump at the opportunity to select him.
28. Carolina Panthers (12-4): Kelvin Benjamin, wide receiver, Florida State
The Panthers luck out that there’s a first-round wide receiver available at No. 28. Quarterback Cam Newton would love for Carolina to draft him a big wideout.
29. New England Patriots (12-4): Kony Ealy, defensive end, Missouri
The Patriots need a third defensive end to rotate with Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. They still would be the starters, but Ealy could spell either player and play defensive end in sub packages with Jones moving to defensive tackle.
Ealy has ideal size for a Patriots pass rusher at 6-foot-4, 273 pounds. His athleticism is top of the line, as well, which he proved by running a 4.6-second 40-yard dash at his pro day and a 6.83-second three-cone drill at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Ealy appears to be moving up experts’ rankings, but there are reports that he could slide out of the first round.
30. San Francisco 49ers (12-4): Bradley Roby, cornerback, Ohio State
Roby could wind up being a draft bust, but the 49ers need help at cornerback, and Roby is the best player available.
31. Denver Broncos (13-3): Xavier Su’a-Filo, guard, UCLA
The Broncos filled a lot of needs through free agency, but they lost starting guard Zane Beadles. Su’a-Filo could be a Day 1 starter for Denver.
32. Seattle Seahawks (13-3): Dee Ford, defensive end, Auburn
The Seahawks released defensive end Chris Clemons and missed out on Jared Allen in free agency. Ford would be a perfect fit for the Seahawks’ defense.