2014 NFL Mock Draft: Patriots Pick High-Upside Defensive Lineman

dominique-easleyMock draft season officially is over with the 2014 NFL draft set to begin on Thursday night.

This year’s draft is as unpredictable as any in years’ past, since the Houston Texans still haven’t revealed who they will select with the No. 1 overall pick, and how they pick will dictate how the rest of the chips fall. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is the logical pick for the Texans — being the consensus best player in the draft and all — but they also could go with Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack or one of the year’s top quarterbacks.

There are limitless possibilities for the New England Patriots at No. 29, since they have needs across their roster, and they could trade up or down in the draft. In NESN.com’s final mock draft, we have the Patriots taking a defensive tackle.

1. Houston Texans (2-14): Jadeveon Clowney, pass rusher, South Carolina

Suspicion seems to be building that the Texans could trade out of this pick or select Khalil Mack. I’ll play it safe by picking Clowney.

2. St. Louis Rams from Washington Redskins (3-13): Greg Robinson, offensive tackle, Auburn

The Rams need offensive line help, and Robinson could wind up having a Hall of Fame career, according to one scout I spoke with.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12): Sammy Watkins, wide receiver, Clemson

The Jaguars could trade down from this spot, since they likely would be happy with Sammy Watkins, Khalil Mack, Taylor Lewan or Jake Matthews. If they stay put, Watkins is the best value.

4. Cleveland Browns (4-12): Mike Evans, wide receiver, Texas A&M

The Browns have real interest in Evans, Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman reported Wednesday. They can select a quarterback later in the draft.

5. Oakland Raiders (4-12):  Khalil Mack, linebacker, Buffalo

With the top two wide receivers gone, Mack makes the most sense for the Raiders, who signed their offensive tackles in free agency. Mack can stand up at linebacker and rush the passer in a three-point stance.

6. Atlanta Falcons (4-12): Taylor Lewan, offensive tackle, Michigan

The Falcons could trade up to select Clowney or Mack, but their need at tackle is just as great, if not greater, than their need for another pass rusher, which they can find later in the draft.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12): Johnny Manziel, quarterback, Texas A&M

The Buccaneers signed Josh McCown because the new regime obviously doesn’t think very highly of last year’s rookie, Mike Glennon. Charles Robinson of Yahoo! believes the Bucs will wind up with Johnny Football.

8. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1): Aaron Donald, defensive tackle, Pittsburgh

The Vikings had Kevin Williams and Pat Williams for years at defensive tackle, clogging and disrupting the middle of the field. If they select Donald, he and Sharrif Floyd can serve as a similar pairing.

9. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Jake Matthews, offensive tackle, Texas A&M

The Bills already have Cordy Glenn, but the third-year pro has the versatility to move to right tackle or guard. Matthews can be a franchise left tackle.

10. Detroit Lions (7-9): Kyle Fuller, cornerback, Virginia Tech

The Lions likely will look to draft a receiver or a defensive back in this spot. Fuller has jumped up draft boards, and he could be the first cornerback off the board.

11. Tennessee Titans (7-9): C.J. Mosley, linebacker, Alabama

The Titans’ zone defense could use a great all-around linebacker like Mosley. The Titans also could look to trade back.

12. New York Giants (7-9): Zack Martin, offensive tackle, Notre Dame

The Giants added some veteran offensive line help through free agency, but Martin, who’s projected by some as a top 10 pick, would be a steal at No. 12.

13. St. Louis Rams (7-9): Justin Gilbert, cornerback, Oklahoma State

The Rams need another high-caliber cornerback to pair with Janoris Jenkins. Gilbert has the skills to be the Rams’ No. 1 cornerback.

14. Chicago Bears (8-8): Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, safety, Alabama

The Bears’ defense was a total mess last season, so they likely will take the best player available in this spot. Clinton-Dix can play either safety spot.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Marqise Lee, wide receiver, USC

The Steelers lost Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders in consecutive years. Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown need some help.

16. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Anthony Barr, pass rusher, UCLA

There are questions whether Barr could move from outside linebacker to defensive end, but bulking up without losing too much speed shouldn’t be too hard on one of the biggest freak athletes in the draft. The Cowboys need help all over their defensive line.

17. Baltimore Ravens (8-8): Eric Ebron, tight end, North Carolina

The Ravens reportedly are interested in Ebron, and while he might not last this long, they could trade up for the speedy tight end if they covet him enough.

18. New York Jets (8-8): Odell Beckham, wide receiver, LSU

Beckham won’t last to No. 18, but the Jets reportedly are interested in trading up for him. He could be drafted in the top 10.

19. Miami Dolphins (8-8): Ryan Shazier, linebacker, Ohio State

Shazier reportedly isn’t getting past the Dolphins’ No. 19 overall pick. The Dolphins lack youth and athleticism in their linebacker corps, and Shazier’s father is the team chaplain.

20. Arizona Cardinals (10-6): Blake Bortles, quarterback, Central Florida

If Bortles drops out of the top 10, which is possible, the Cardinals might be the next team interested. The Cardinals could keep starting Carson Palmer until Bortles is ready.

21. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1): Jimmie Ward, safety, Northern Illinois

Calvin Pryor is the consensus second-best safety in the draft, but he doesn’t have the ideal athleticism needed to play free safety. Ward is athletic and versatile.

22. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6): Darqueze Dennard, cornerback, Michigan State

The Eagles need another outside cornerback for their defense, and Dennard’s a smart player who likely will be solid in any scheme.

23. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5): Brandin Cooks, wide receiver, Oregon State

The Chiefs need another target for quarterback Alex Smith, and Cooks, who can shine out of the slot and after the catch, could be the perfect player if he’s still available.

24. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5): Louis Nix, defensive tackle, Notre Dame

The Bengals should be looking for an upgrade at nose tackle over Domato Peko, and Nix has the athleticism worthy of being taken in the first round.

25. San Diego Chargers (9-7): Calvin Pryor, safety, Louisville

The Chargers should sit and wait to draft the best available defensive player. Pryor would be a good fit at strong safety next to Eric Weddle.

26. Cleveland Browns from Indianapolis Colts (4-12):  Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback, Louisville

Waiting for a quarterback could pay off for the Browns if Bridgewater is still available here. The Browns like Bridgewater’s ability to read defenses.

27. New Orleans Saints (11-5): Marcus Martin, center, USC

The Saints reportedly like Marcus Martin, who was invited to the draft, as a potential first-round pick. They also could look for the best available receiver, pass rusher or cornerback.

28. Carolina Panthers (12-4): Joel Bitonio, offensive lineman, Nevada

The Panthers need help on their offensive line, and Bitonio could fill in anywhere. Left tackle isn’t the best spot for him, but he likely could play that role.

29. New England Patriots (12-4): Dominique Easley, defensive tackle, Florida

The Patriots are one of five teams showing the most interest in Easley. If the Bears or Cowboys don’t take him, the Patriots could stay put and scoop him up. The Patriots also have needs at tight end, wide receiver and linebacker.

30. San Francisco 49ers (12-4): Bradley Roby, cornerback, Ohio State

The 49ers have needs at wide receiver and cornerback. With Roby falling and plenty of wideouts available in the second round, Roby makes more sense than reaching for a receiver.

31. Denver Broncos (13-3): Xavier Su’a-Filo, guard, UCLA

The Broncos lost Zane Beadles in free agency, and Su’a-Filo is the best offensive lineman left on the board.

32. Seattle Seahawks (13-3):  Stephon Tuitt, defensive end, Notre Dame

The Seahawks released five-technique defensive end Red Bryant, and Tuitt played that role for Notre Dame. He has ideal size and athleticism, and he could be a bigger pass-rush threat than Bryant.

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