2014 NFL Draft: 5 Safest Picks

Al Bello

The NFL draft is a crap shoot and there are no sure bets, but there are safer picks and if you want to succeed as a franchise in the NFL, you cannot afford to miss on your 1st round picks very often. I am very confident that the 5 players below, at worst, will be solid starters for years to come in the NFL.

5 Safest Picks

The NFL draft is a crap shoot and there are no sure bets, but there are safer picks. Earlier we looked at my 5 biggest "Risks" in the draft - keep in mind, simply because they are a "Risk" does not mean they will not pan out. Now we look at what I believe to be my 5 safest bets.

I am not proclaiming these players will be 10-time pro bowlers (though they may), but I do believe these players have much higher floors than most in the draft. If you want to succeed as a franchise in the NFL, you cannot afford to miss on your 1st round picks very often. I am very confident that the 5 players below, at worst, will be solid starters for years to come in the NFL.

5. Sammy Watkins

Why He is Safe:

Watkins has what you can't teach, speed. But, unlike many other speedy receivers that have been high pick busts (see Darius Heyward-Bey), Watkins can also catch. Watkins has great straight line speed (4.43), great quickness and agility, great after the catch ability, great body control and good size (6'1" 211lbs) to go along with his great hands.

The only knock on Watkins is the polish in his route running - which can, and will, be corrected. In the meantime, he has skills that will allow him to be a difference maker, regardless of how well he runs a route.

4. Darqueze Dennard

Why He is Safe:

I have Dennard as my #1 corner in this draft. While not the most athletic corner in the draft, he is the most pro ready and most solid all-around corner on the board. Dennard has good size (5'11" 199lbs), good speed (not great - 4.51), is a sure tackler and has high character and good leadership traits.

Not often do you find a corner with all of these traits. He may not become a Deion Sanders game-changing type, but he has the ability to be a solid long term starter, i.e. Leon Hall, Nate Clements type. All things considered, my dream draft would have the Bengals taking Aaron Donald or Darqueze Dennard with the 24th pick - I doubt either will be available.

3. Taylor Lewan

Why He is Safe:

Generally speaking, offensive lineman are the surest bets in the draft, and according to those "in the know," the 2014 draft has 3 tackles better than the top 2 tackles in 2013...who oh by the way, went 1 and 2 overall.

While Lewan has some minor character concerns, he is a massive tackle (6'7" 309lbs) that has good mechanics, good balance and good speed (4.87) to get to second level defenders. Lewan is a pro-ready LT and in draft terms, is a "plug and play" type of a pick.

2. Aaron Donald

Why He is Safe:

Donald does not have ideal size (6'0" 285lbs), but he is big enough. What he does have is what I value most, consistent effort and actual production. Lifting weights, running and doing drills in shorts is all for show, what I like is production on the field and that is where Donald excels.

Don't get me wrong, Donald showed well in the combine as well (4.68 40yd dash and 33 reps), but put on the tape and that is where you see how disruptive this guy is. The hardest thing for a quarterback to deal with is pressure up the middle and that is what Donald brings.

He has greatly benefited from the success of the Bengals Geno Atkins (6'1" 303lbs) and his play and attributes closely resemble Atkins. Combine his skill, work ethic and high character and you have an excellent pick in Donald with a very high floor.

1. Jake Matthews

Why He is Safe:

High character player with good size (6'5" 308lbs), outstanding work ethic, outstanding technique and outstanding family blood lines (father (Bruce) was a Hall of Fame guard, uncle was a Pro Bowl linebacker and 2 cousins are NFL linebackers - including one of the best in the game, Clay Matthews).

Matthews possesses everything you want in a franchise LT and as such, is the top tackle on my board. In my opinion, Matthews "floor" is a 10 year starter with multiple Pro Bowls. While his upside and difference-making potential is not as high as someone like Clowney, he is a much safer and surer bet.

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