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Never Too Early: A 2014 NFL Mock Draft

Good afternoon, Broncos fans! The 2013 NFL Draft is now in the books, but that won't stop us at Mile High Report from projecting what will happen in the 2014 NFL Draft. Yeah, we are obsessed like that.

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

In this article, I will project the first round for 2014 along with the top three selections for the Broncos in next years draft. As always, thanks for reading and I look forward to any questions or comments regarding prospects and players eligible in 2014.

First Round Projection for the 2014 NFL Draft

1.Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The Jacksonville Jaguars are going absolutely nowhere with Blaine Gabbert -- absolutely nowhere. Teddy Bridgwater (as of now) is easily the best QB in college football and would bring a much needed facelift to a franchise that hasn't had a constant at the position in years. I can't think of a more logical selection than quarterback for this team, but it will come down to preference as there are a lot of good signal callers in this years draft.

2. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Clowney is arguably the best player in this draft. A freakish 6'6 and 270 pounds, Clowney is going to be an absolutely dominant player in the NFL. This past year lacked any true blue chip prospect, but the Titans get lucky and snag one of the best prospects to come out in the past decade at #2. Expect a lot of offers to move up if a scenario plays out where a QB goes #1 and Clowney is on the board. If he keeps healthy this year, he will be coveted.

3. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
The Browns seem to be perpetually picking in the top ten selections of the NFL Draft and I don't see that changing any time soon. Why this franchise was brought back from the annals of Hell is beyond me. They were rumored to have been interested in Milliner this past year, but passed on him to address other needs. Giving Joe Haden a quality running mate in Bradley Roby would be important in an NFL that continues to ride the wave of spread offenses and top-fllght passing games.

4. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Words cannot even begin to describe how God awful the Cardinals offensive line is. There are a lot of quality prospects to choose from, but I'll give the early edge to Kouandjio out of Alabama. Best part about it? This guy is a mortal lock for the Top 15 and Quanterus Smith ate his lunch and then some last season.

5.Marqise Lee, WR, USC
If Geno Smith is going to be successful in the NFL, he is going to need all the help he can get. Lee is one of the most dynamic receivers in college football and would help aid in the maturation process of Smith. Santonio Holmes is aging, Stephen Hill has a lot of improvement to show and the depth they have there is not quality. Wideoumakes the most sense here.

6.Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
This year will be telling as to whether or not the Matt Flynn experience works out for the Raiders. If it doesn't, they will obviously have to put a priority on getting a signal caller. I'll roll this selection out with the Bulldog's Aaron Murray who has the potential to be a cornerstone for any NFL team that drafts him.

7. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
I think that Tajh Boyd would be absolutely lethal with Chip Kelly. It doesn't matter to me that they took Matt Barkley in the fourth round. Vick is likely gone after this season and more competition will be necessary. I've seen what Boyd can do to defenses in the ACC with his Tigers, I can't imagine the kind of show he would put on in the NFL with the likes of LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.

8. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
D.J. Fluker has absolutely no business playing left tackle in the NFL and getting a top tier prospect like Lewan would allow the Chargers to move him to his natural position and get a player who figures to have similar, if not better success than former Wolverine lineman Jake Long has had in the NFL.

9.Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
It was no secret that the Detroit Lions were in a market for an offensive tackle in this years draft, but the trade mania that ensued on draft day left them hanging. They luck out here and get to address their biggest need on the team. Matthews is a quality selection.

10.Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
After getting E.J. Manuel, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Da'Rick Rogers to step in with Stevie Johnson and C.J. Spiller, the Bills have the looks of a lethal offense for the future. Scott Chandler is an above-average NFL tight end, but adding a guy like Seferian-Jenkins who reeled in 110 catches for 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first two years with the Huskies would help give Manuel the safety net he needs at the position.

11.Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
The Panthers have quite a few fast and small receivers on their team, but could use a big-bodied wide receiver for Cam Newton to connect with in the redzone. Moncrief is one of the best wide receivers in college football and measures in at a big 6'3 - 215 pounds.

12.Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
Jackson Jeffcoat was born to be a Cowboy. His father Jim Jeffcoat played for them for over a decade. They have a few free agents on the defensive line next season, so this would be a good selection as an insurance policy in case they cannot retain Anthony Spencer.

13.Timmy Jernigan, DL, Florida State
It would be sad to one of my favorite players in college football go to one of our most bitter rivals, but Jernigan makes sense for a team that will continue to need help on the defensive line considering Tyson Jackson will be moving on after taking a paycut to stay on the team for this season.

14. Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
After adding power in the draft to their secondary and improving their offense, the Bucs would be wise to select one of the best pass rushers in the country to help take their defense to the next level.
15.David Yankey, OT, Stanford
Roger Saffold didn't like being moved on the offensive line and is likely to jet after his rookie contract expires. Drafting Yankey helps with the departure and gives the Rams insurance in case Jake Long misses any time (like he routinely has) over the past few seasons.

16.Kyle Van Noy, DE/OLB, BYU
The Jerry Hughes experiment never worked out in Indianapolis which recently led to him being traded to the Buffalo Bills for Kelvin Shappard. Robert Mathis is getting old and Dwight Freeney is long gone, so they could use a pass rushing specialist off the edge that can create pressure on opposing offenses.

17. (Via Washington Redskins) Hasean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
Jeff Fisher and the St. Louis Rams front office have got to be absolutely tickled with the compensation they received from the Redskins in order for them to get Robert Griffin III. The Rams have some decent players in their secondary, but no true difference makers at the safety position. Getting a quality prospect like Clinton-Dix who can play the run and pass extremely well would help this team out in a division that likes to sling the rock.

18.Sammy Watikins, ATH, Clemson
The Dolphins added Mike Wallace and re-signed Brian Hartline, but surprisingly didn't draft anyone at the position after sending Davone Bess to the Browns. Watkins is an electric playmaker who will give NFL defenses absolute nightmares with his speed, rushing and receiving skills. Seems like the perfect fit for the Dolphins.

19. Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida
Whenever you watch the Steelers play, they seem to have some of the weirdest guys you ever heard of at cornerback. It is a constant revolving door of randomness. Purifoy is a first round talent who is performing well in a crowded Gators defensive backfield.

20.Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
Charles Tillman put on one of the better corner seasons in recent memory, but is getting a little long in the tooth. Colvin is a quality scheme fit and perhaps a Top 15 talent in this class. For him to be here at this point in time is a steal for the Bears.

21.CJ Mosley, LB, Alabama
It would be absolutely criminal if CJ Mosley slid all the way to the Giants this far in the draft, but with the other team needs, it is a legitimate possibility. Exactly what the G-Men could use to help improve their defense.

22. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
If there is one thing that has remained true for the Saints for the past half decade it is this -- their defense sucks and allowed 7,000 yards this past season. Going to go with one of the must underrated pass rushers in the draft who plays for the Bruins. Should be a dynamic player for them.

23.James Hurst, OT, North Carolina
Bryant McKinnie is getting older and the Ravens could use some help at the position. There is a reason the analysis for this pick is the shortest. Take a guess why.

24. Trey DePriest, ILB, Alabama
They may have gotten Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges in the middle rounds of this draft, but what the Vikings lack on defense is a MIKE who be a future leader for their team. DePriest fits the bill wonderfully and would address their biggest need. I'm still surprised they didn't go after Manti Te'o in this past draft, but they knocked it out of the park the whole way through. This team could be dangerous.

25.Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami
Hard to come up with needs on a team that is already pretty good. Henderson might be a reach here, but with a lot of the top tackles going quickly, I figure we will see teams grabbing them wile they can. Texans get some offensive line help that they are in need of.

26. Ifo Ekpre-Olumu, CB, Oregon
The Bengals have Leon Hall and high hopes for second-year player Dre Kirkpatrick, but the rest of their secondary is old or not good. Getting a talent like Ekpre-Olumu here is great value.

27. Morgan Breslin, DE, USC
The Falcons didn't use a high selection in this years draft to get a pass rusher and opted to use their first two selections to improve their secondary. Breslin can bring the heat and is a great fit for the Falcons.

28. Lamarcus Joyner, DB, Florida State
Joyner is a versatile prospect that has the ability to play safety or corner and will give the Packers a much needed boost in the secondary that they desperately need.

29.Cyril Richardson, OL, Baylor
A big beefy player to help Russell Wilson in pass protection as well as crush defenders and pave the way for blocks for their quality running game.

30.A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Tom Brady has an heir to his throne and his name is not Ryan Mallet. This sort of situation wouldn't surprise me at all. With the luck Bill Belichick has when it comes to getting value in the draft, McCarron to the Patriots was just meant to be.

31.Daniel McCullers, NT, Tennessee
McCullers is one of the most gigantic human beings I have ever seen on the football field. At 6'8, 360 pounds, he would be an absolute force in the middle for the 49ers and really help open up things for their ends and linebackers.

Picking 32, your Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos. . .

First Round: James Gayle, DE -- Virginia Tech

The Broncos weren’t silent the past week in addressing their need of a pass rushing, bringing in Shaun Phillips on a one year contract, draft sleeper prospect Quanterus Smith in the fifth round and seem to have high hopes for Robert Ayers in his contract year and believe Malik Jackson will improve in his sophomore season. During their first day press conference after the selection of Sylvester Williams, Vice President of Football Operations John Elway had discussed how Datone Jones was a priority on their list at #28. While Smith may turn out to be an impact pass rusher in the NFL, nothing is a given and it could be possible that he uses his first season with a "medical redshirt" to get completely healthy after tearing his ACL last November and spend a full year in a NFL strength training program.

That being said, you can never have enough pass rushers in the NFL and the Broncos will be fortunate enough to have the opportunity to select one early in a class that is even deeper than it was this past year. The selection here in the first round is an easy one for me to place and it is James Gayle, DE out of Virginia Tech. Gayle stands in at 6’4 and 265 pounds and is one of the best athletes in the nation, regardless of position. Several years earlier and fifteen pounds lighter, Gayle ran a blistered 4.45 40 yard dash upon his entrance to the Hokies football program. He has an uncanny blend of speed and size off the edge that make him a handful for collegiate offensive lineman to handle.

Frequently seeing double teams, Gayle’s sack production dipped from 7 as a sophomore to five as a junior, but he has shown dedication and taken after recommendation from his defensive coaches to improve his technique (specifically angle taking) in order to become one of the premier defensive players in the ACC. Gayle highly considered entering the 2013 NFL Draft, but returned for his last year of eligibility at Tech in order improve his draft stock and lead the Hokies defense in aspirations of being the top team in the country. Improvement in technique and playing strength are the two primary areas of concern for Gayle, but with his love for the game I believe he will do whatever it takes to put it together. If he does, he will be well worth it when the Broncos are selecting in round one.

Second Round: Christian Jones, LB -- Florida State

John Elway wasn’t bluffing when he stated he had confidence in third year player Nate Irving and second year UDFA Steven Johnson to compete for a the starting spot at MIKE linebacker in 2013. In addition to the aforementioned, the Broncos brought in Stewart Bradley and have Joe Mays (though his days may be numbered) on the roster, but their contracts expire at the end of the season. As of now, It is impossible to tell whether or not Irving and Johnson will be what the Broncos hope for at inside linebacker until the games are played, but if they don’t pan out it is undoubtedly clear what the Broncos largest position of need going into the 2014 season will be.

Enter Christian Jones. Jones, a senior at Florida State, is one of the most versatile and instinctive linebackers in this years draft class. He has been a starter the past two years (WLB in 2012 and SLB in 2011) after being a quality special teamer and reserve linebacker for the Seminoles as a true freshman. While he has not manned down the inside at Florida State, his versatility speaks for itself and his ability to handle two position switches in college to spectacular results leads me to believe he can do it in the NFL.

At 6’4, 235 pounds -- Jones has an intimidating physical presence with great speed that allows him to get downhill quickly and be a quality defender against the run. He also has the change of direction skills needed to drop into coverage and cover wide receivers and tight ends he is matched up against. With Denver running out of the nickel package as primarily their base defense, he would be able to stay on the field as one of the two linebackers, further adding to his value to the team. What Jones needs to work on most is play diagnosis and continue to get mental reps in the playbook to fulfill his potential.

Third Round: Dezmen Southward, FS -- Wisconsin

The story of Dezmen Southward is quite impressive. A two star recruit out of the state of Florida, Southward left the Sunshine State and headed north for the Badger State of Wisconsin to play football after getting shown no love locally and only receiving three scholarship offers from Division 1 programs. In hindsight, waving goodbye to Florida and trekking over a thousand miles north may have been the best decision he ever made.

It has been a long path for Southward to reach his final season with the Badgers. Southward redshirted his first season in 2009, and was a valuable reserve and special teamer for the Badgers in 2010. In 2011, Southward ended up earning a starting role as the season wore on and finished the year with 35 tackles and two forced fumbles. This past season, as a redshirt junior, Southward finally began to shine and registered an impressive 69 tackles (8 for loss) along with five passes defended, one interception and another forced fumble.

At 6’2, 214 pounds -- Southward has the intimidating size talent evaluators desire in their defensive backfield. He also has quality speed (4.42 - 4.55) and has shown demonstrable improvement every year at Wisconsin. His strength in run support and good tackling ability may make him a better candidate for strong safety in the NFL, but he approaches the game fundamentally with a sound mentality which should allow him to have a long and successful career in the pros. Mike Adams isn’t getting any younger and Rahim Moore is clearly on notice to improve his game in 2013 or get replaced. I was surprised that the Broncos ignored the position in this years draft, but am confident they won’t be ignoring in come 2014. Southward would be a quality selection for the Broncos in the third round of the draft.

Once again, thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @topherhart.

How does the Mile High Report community feel about my Top 3 selections for the Broncos in the 2014 NFL Draft?