Jay Skurski’s mock draft: In QB-rich year, Bills could go for wideout - The Buffalo News
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Jay Skurski’s mock draft: In QB-rich year, Bills could go for wideout

Fifteen picks were made in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft before a quarterback heard his name called.

That quarterback, EJ Manuel, had an up-and-down rookie year with the Buffalo Bills.

Looking ahead to the 2014 draft, which will be held in New York City from May 8-10, it’s unlikely there will be such a long wait for a quarterback to come off the board.

Five of the top eight teams in the draft – Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland and Minnesota – have undeniable needs at the most important position on the field.

Another two teams – St. Louis and Tampa Bay – could make the case they need a quarterback, too. Even the Bills at No. 9 could do some outside-the-box thinking and double down on quarterbacks with consecutive first-round picks, although that’s unlikely.

Quarterbacks should once again dominate the conversation in the top 10 of the draft. With the draft pushed back from its usual late-April spot on the calendar, there will be even more time for teams to sort out their boards.

Players’ stock will rise and fall at the scouting combine and on-campus pro days. Teams’ needs will change after free agency.

But before all that happens, here’s a (very) early look at how the first round could play out at Radio City Music Hall on May 8.

1. Houston Texans. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville. New coach Bill O’Brien gets a potential franchise quarterback to start his rebuild.

2. Atlanta Falcons. (Projected trade with St. Louis.) Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina. Falcons have shown in the past they’re not afraid to trade up. They do so to get the draft’s best player.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M. Jaguars GM and St. Francis grad David Caldwell makes a bold move by taking the most talked-about player in the ’14 class.

4. Cleveland Browns. Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida. New coach Mike Pettine will take care of the defense, but he needs a franchise quarterback.

5. Oakland Raiders. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA. Should add a strong pass rush right away, and can develop into an every-down defender for the Silver and Black.

6. St. Louis Rams. (Projected trade with Atlanta.) Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson. Rams go receiver in the first round in back-to-back years, pairing Watkins with Tavon Austin.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo. The Western New York connections to the 813 continue as Mack joins Buffalo natives Mike Williams and Steven Means with the Bucs.

8. Minnesota Vikings. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State. Carr didn’t do anything to hurt his stock at the Senior Bowl on Saturday.

9. Buffalo Bills. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M. At 6-foot-4, Evans fits the physical mold of a big, athletic receiver who can develop into a team’s No. 1 option.

10. Detroit Lions. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State. In-state product is the first Spartan to win Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive back.

11. Tennessee Titans. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama. Titans lack playmakers in the front seven on defense outside D-tackle Jurrell Casey.

12. New York Giants. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M. Son of Pro Football Hall of Fame member Bruce Matthews becomes the third Aggie taken in the top dozen picks.

13. St. Louis Rams. Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn. Rams get a replacement for the injury-prone Jake Long as the franchise left tackle.

14. Chicago Bears. Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State. Franchise defensive tackle Henry Melton suffered a torn knee ligament last year, and Chicago needs to bulk up on the D-line.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama. No joke – the Steelers’ starting safeties, Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu, are a combined 241 years old.

16. Baltimore Ravens. Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California. Struggled with injuries a bit in 2013, but Lee dominated the Pac-12 the previous two seasons.

17. Dallas Cowboys. Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame. Cowboys were atrocious on defense last year. Tuitt has the flexibility to play a couple of different positions.

18. New York Jets. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina. Jets are sorely lacking playmakers on offense, and Ebron has big potential.

19. Miami Dolphins. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame. Dolphins gave up a franchise-record 58 sacks and had some problems on the O-line you may have heard about.

20. Arizona Cardinals. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State. Gilbert would team with Patrick Peterson to give the Cardinals a strong cornerback tandem.

21. Green Bay Packers. Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville. Hard hitter who’s got good size (6-2) to match up with big tight ends.

22. Philadelphia Eagles. Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State. All-American made 315 tackles, including 44.5 for loss, in three seasons with Buckeyes.

23. Kansas City Chiefs. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State. Redshirt sophomore caught the game-winning touchdown in national championship game.

24. Cincinnati Bengals. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU. Leon Hall suffered a torn Achilles last season and Dre Kirkpatrick has been a disappointment as a first-round pick.

25. San Diego Chargers. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State. Runs a sub 4.4-second 40-yard dash and was an All-American in 2012, but had a bit of a down year in 2013.

26. Cleveland Browns. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State. Cooks won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver. He would make a good sidekick for Josh Gordon.

27. New Orleans Saints. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan. Lewan probably should have come out after the 2012 season, but he still goes in the first round. He plays with an edge.

28. Carolina Panthers. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama. Jordan Gross is nearing retirement, and the Panthers have to protect Cam Newton.

29. New England Patriots. Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame. Vince Wilfork will turn 33 next season and is coming off a torn Achilles tendon. It’s hard to imagine it even being possible, but Nix is even bigger than Wilfork.

30. San Francisco 49ers. Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota. Versatile defender has long arms and broad shoulders, reminding some of Texans star J.J. Watt.

31. Denver Broncos. Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas. As long as Peyton Manning is calling plays, protecting him should be any team’s top priority.

32. Seattle Seahawks. Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech. Amaro had 106 catches for 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns last year. He fits the mold of today’s athletic tight end, and would be a big weapon for Russell Wilson.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com

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